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Training legend Barry Purdon may not win either Inter Dominion final at Alexandra Park tonight but his horses might hold the keys to who does. Purdon rivals his brother Mark for trainer of the carnival as he has three in tonight’s $500,000 pacing final and Marcoola in the $150,000 trotting group one. That is a fair leap from just a month ago when he didn’t even train Marcoola or dual series heat winner A G’s White Socks, while Mach Shard was jarred up after a New Zealand Cup shocker and his other pacing finalist On The Cards had just started his campaign with a third in a moderate race. So Purdon has taken two stable newcomers and two $150 chances and squeezed the absolute best out of them to give them a shot at the title. That, after all, is what horse training at its most basic level is all about. To turn that training genius into something a little more spendable Purdon’s trio in tonight’s $500,000 pacing final are going to need to be in the right place at the right time and for that A G’s White Socks, Mach Shard and On The Cards all have a very valuable weapon: gate speed. They are all on the front line surrounding hot favourite Ultimate Sniper and while anything could happen inside them it looks better than even money one of Barry’s horses will lead early. On The Cards, from barrier four, is the most likely to cross to the pegs but he could easily be joined by Mach Shard and/or A G’s White Socks if they can beat Ultimate Sniper off the gate. That is very possible as Natalie Rasmussen is often neutral for the first 400m of major races. The other side of that coin flip is Ultimate Sniper attaching itself to On The Cards, following it straight across and pretty much waltzing to the lead, which would give it the luxury of a $100 chance on his back and maybe seal the fate of Ultimate Sniper’s rivals. Purdon says his three are all well, have handled the rigours of the series and are ready to run up to the best form. “We know it is going to be hard to beat Ultimate Sniper, when horses start racing like he has during an Inter Dominion they tend to hold that form and I think he will too,” says Barry. “So maybe he will be too good but our horses should be up there and handy and that will give their drivers options.” If an A G’s White Socks or Mach Shard is given free rein to charge forward and can cross Ultimate Sniper then they get their chance to lead and almost certainly trail after so any one of Purdon’s three could sneak into a quinella or trifecta spot. But while it is hard for the master trainer to be too confident of beating Ultimate Sniper, he is more upbeat about an upset in the trotting final. Marcoola was always likely to be a better horse for tonight than in the heats, with the week off a chance for him to put on weight and Purdon to train him, rather than just look after him. He has worked well this week and after driver Sheree Tomlinson impressed Purdon with her patient handling of Marcoola in his heats, the boss is happy for her to power up the big boy tonight. “I will tell Sheree I am happy for her to drive him forward if he feels like that,” says Purdon. “He is fit and ready and we realise if we let Winterfell get his way in front then he might get it too easy so we will probably be rolling forward. “I couldn’t be happier with him and with a horse like Majestic Man fast off the gate too there could be some pressure early.” Purdon has trained 31 winners in just 101 starts this season, giving him a higher strike rate than even the All Stars, and should snare another group one before the Interdom Finals are even run tonight. He has speed freak mare Belle Of Montana headlining a four-pronged attack on the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts and even though she has drawn the second line it shouldn’t matter. Belle Of Montana is so fast she almost certainly would have made the pacing final had she contested the Interdom series and she is racing horses tonight who wouldn’t have. She sat parked to beat most of them last Friday and Purdon says she will be fitter tonight. “She will definitely come on from last week and while she has the second line she is the only horse starting there so Zac (Butcher) has options. And she is probably good enough she could parked and win if she had to.”   Where: Alexandra Park When: Saturday night, first race 5.45pm What: $500,000 Interdom Pacing Final, $150,000 Interdom Trotting Final, $100,000 Queen Of Hearts, $100,000 Peter Breckon Memorial, $50,000 Alabar Classic, $40,000 Lincoln Farms Classic. Support card: Oscar Bonavena, Enhance Your Calm and Tickle Me Pink in the free-for-all trot, Miracle Mile favourite Self Assured in race nine. The Punt: Tote and Fixed all races, $10,000 included in First4 pools for Interdom Finals, head to head markets and special bet options, all at Watch: Live on Trackside 2 (Sky 63) from 5.14pm including live interviews with drivers in pre-race warm ups. On track: Free admission, dining packages sold out but Macs Bar (Party Zone) open on the infield as well as seating still available in stand, Lyell Creek and Alex Park. After party after racing programme finishes.   by Michael Guerin

Race 6, 8.19pm: $150,000 HR Fisken And Son Inter Dominion Trot Final, 2700m mobile: If he races up to last Friday’s national record performance then this looks Winterfell’s  (2) race to lose. After a mainly disappointing year since a superstar three-year-old season he has bounced right back during this series and has looked safer with every start. If, and it is still a very small if, he behaves he should get the lead and can trot a sub 3:20 time for 2700m. That will take an awful lot of beating. Majestic Man (4) is the obvious danger. He has been wonderful all series and could cross to the lead, trail and await the passing lane. The mid-race pressure could determine his chances but is a winning threat.  Most on the second line have been good to very good during this series so the runs they get probably decided who gets closest out of Temporale (9), Paramount King (12), Massive Metro (13) and Tough Monarch (11). Temporale looks the best place chance of those taking the short way home but Paramount King has been the big mover so it wouldn’t surprise to see him fly home. That, of the winning chances, leaves Marcoola (8) who has been driven cold all series and has been good but not his startling best. Don’t be surprised to see him do something incredible tonight. Selections: Winterfell, Majestic Man, Temporale, Marcoola. Suggested bet: The $1.90 for Winterfell looks fairer by the day while Temporale a place is tempting as he should sit four fence and the TAB pay back to fourth fixed odds.   RACE 8, 9.35pm: $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final, 2700m mobile: Sometimes when a horse is $1.45 you go looking for value to beat it, but really, what is the point? Ultimate Sniper (5) should win. He has been three wide for at least a lap of every race during the series and savaged the line. He might be turning into a great horse and hard to imagine any of his rivals parking him should be look for the lead. From there only a drop in his performance level or a lack of concentration can beat him. If a favourite is expected to lead and dominate you want to be on those in his slipstream and that looks a race between stablemates On The Cards (4), Mach Shard (6) and A G’s White Socks (7). The latter is the better performed of the trio and if was able to work across to the markers that would make him a huge quinella chance to cap his comeback series. Cruz Bromac (11) has been brave in a stellar last month and as the NZ Cup winner should beat most of these but faces sitting parked or one-one last lap. His best chance is if they burn early.  Thefixer (13) is in a similar position but probably not racing as well and Chase Auckland (9) will probably jump on the three wide train with his stablemates at some stage so who beats who home out of them could depend on how those cards are shuffled. Of the bolters few can win but My Kiwi Mate (1), On The Cards (4), who might be the best chance of leading early and Mach Shard (6) could all sneak some stake money and make your First4 juicier. Selections: Ultimate Sniper, A G’s White Socks, Cruz Bromac, Thefixer. Suggested bets: Ultimate Sniper should win so if you betting big take the shorts. But the best value might actually On The Cards at $8 a place at with the TAB paying back to fourth on fixed.   INTERDOM NIGHT SUPORT CARD MADE EASY R1, 5.45pm:  Three-year-olds coming out of stronger races should dominate but Down To The Bone (3) is better odds than Dina Bolt (4) so worth an each way play. R2, 6.15pm: Copy That (2) beat all of these last week after he got the lead and if he does so again should double up. The trick is Flying Even Bettor (1) drawn the ace but that still give Copy That the trailing option. So he has two shots at repeating with your biggest concern being Flying Even Bettor holding the lead until Copy That trails and THEN handing up. But David Butcher might be too smart for that. R3, 6.45pm: Oscar Bonavena (9) is the real deal and has won right-handed. Should win although Enhance Your Calm (4) was a close second to him at the workouts two weeks ago and Tickle Me Pink (3) is a class mare. Three very good four-year-olds who should be too fast for the Interdom left overs. R4, 7.15pm: Amazing Dream (5) sat parked and was a huge third last week but tonight gets a far better draw and should get the lead off Need You Now (4), who was very good beating her last Friday. They look a certain quinella with Spellbound drawn the second line. R5, 7.46pm: On a night when not many winners will come from the second line Belle Of Montana (9) should be the exception. Looks the best pacing mare in Australasia and should be able to sit parked if she has to and still win. Multi anchor. R7, 8.56pm: The Interdom Consolation and Another Masterpiece (3) looks beautifully placed from the draw after a luckless series. He is no superstar but finds himself in the right race, albeit at shorter odds than you really want. Solid Gold (4) is a chance to lead and get the trail so looks a great place bet while if there is tempo Colt Thirty One (11) and Classie Brigade (12) come into play while Our Uncle Sam (6) is the blow out. R9, 10.05pm: Self Assured (8) might be as good as the best Interdom horses so even from his draw should win as he heads toward the Auckland Cup. Bettorstartdreaming, Ball Of Art, Mr Kiwi and Double Rocket your best trifecta includes. R10, 10.33pm: The mobile start helps Havehorsewilltravel (3) and on his best behaviour could take some catching. Puma Road (7) is racing at his peak and Ace Commander (6) can be one paced but small field helps. Resonate (9) has the talent to win but if you considering backing him wait until as late as you can before the race because last Friday he got terribly stirred and was no chance by start time.   Michael Guerin

Plenty of people will tell you they feel lucky just to involved in a group one race. Tony Cameron, the super sub driver for Saturday’s $150,000 Interdom Trot Final, doesn’t just feel lucky. He feels blessed. Cameron was looking forward to heading to Alexandra Park to work and watch until trainer Phil Williamson tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he could partner Monty Python. The Oamaru trotter sneaks into the Final after Habibi Inta and Bonnie Highlander were both scratched with injuries on Friday, Bonnie Highlander’s suspensory tear sending her to the broodmare paddock. For 32-year-old Cameron it is the pinnacle his career but the reality is for him every day is a second chance. A decade ago the personable young horseman was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma after a tumour was found in his chest. Nine months of chemotherapy and a month of radiation treatment followed. “It was a pretty tough time but I got my five years clearance a long time ago now and am still in remission,” says Cameron. After his fight with the demon Cameron joined champion driver Tony Herlihy and with the boss’s support he has grown in confidence and now looks at home in the big time of Alexandra Park racing. “But this is still a big deal for me, you never think you will pick up a driver in an Inter Dominion Final, especially the day before the race. “So I am going to enjoy it. Go out there and hope they go hard and give him his chance.” Monty Python probably won’t win. Cameron already has.   Michael Guerin

It was a perfect morning from the All Stars least perfect horse. And it was all you needed to see if you want to back Winterfell to win the $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Final on Saturday night. On a morning when trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen were left beaming after the private workouts of many of their superstars at Pukekohe, it was Winterfell who was the star of the show. And it was some show. Not many stables in the history of harness racing could roll a team that includes the first and second favourites for the $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final, with Cruz Bromac and Ultimate Sniper hitting the line together after the latter trailed until they sprinted up the straight at the end of 2400m. Both look spot on, Cruz Bromac the more natural track worker, Ultimate Sniper wearing far more gear, in a muck of sweat but pacing fluently on the tightish, flat Pukekohe track. The conveyor belt of class didn’t stop there, with Thefixer sharp as he came from last to brush up alongside Another Masterpiece and Self Assured also over 2400m, the latter pair looking where they need to be for their support races at Alexandra Park on Saturday. Other Grand Final contenders Chase Auckland and Ashley Locaz will have their final workouts today, with new driver John Dunn to partner the latter for the first time. And before the Inter pacers strutted their stuff, the stable flexed some serious newcomer to the carnival muscle in Northern Trot Derby winner Enhance Your Calm and New Zealand’s most exciting trotter Oscar Bonavena, with little Oscar sitting behind his far bigger stablemate and picking him up in the last 200m. It was all slick stuff, horses deliberately hitting the line together, not a step out of place, no hanging or heads tossed in the air. Professional, daunting. “It was a really, really good morning,” said Mark Purdon. “We were happy with all of them so things are very much on target for Saturday.” But while there was a phenomenal amount of elite horse power on display the eyecatcher was Winterfell. He started this Interdom series the problem child of the open class trotting ranks, having finished 104-lengths last at his previous start, beaten 33 lengths when sixth of eight the start before. Remarkably for a horse who finished his three-year-old season looking a potential champion he has won only four of his next 14 leading into this series, finishing unplaced in six of them. They are rare numbers for an All Stars Group One player. The sort of numbers that might see a less talented horse ostracised to another stable. Or another country. But something has clicked since Winterfell arrived north. The Winterfell that Purdon has been so happy with at home is finally accompanying him to the races. He was still wayward winning on night one, was taught how to settle in the field when it became apparent he couldn’t win on night two and looked back to his outstanding best winning his final round heat in national record time. That improvement curve continued all the way to yesterday when he worked with leading three-year-old pacers One Change (Sires’ Stakes winner) and Flying Even Bettor. Winterfell was bombproof trailing the galloping pacemaker whereas for several starts in the last 12 months he would have wanted to join in the galloping fun. He looked big, strong, trotting squarely but more importantly he looked a racehorse, no gawking, swerving or looking for excuses. He looked like an Inter Dominion Trotting Final winner in waiting. “He has gone from strength to strength up here,” says Purdon. “He still did a few little things wrong on night one but he has been perfect since. “He went a record last Friday and I am sure he can go faster again this week and I’d like to be in front.” Winterfell can probably afford to get crossed early and still be handed the lead because of the respect he has regained during this series. With yesterday’s faultless trackwork display another stamp in his passport out of Crazy Town, it is going to take something special to beat Winterfell on Saturday night.   Michael Guerin

After 3259 wins it is still there for Maurice McKendry. Not just the talent. That was never in doubt. Never has been since the little fella left Methven nearly 40 years ago to try his luck in the big smoke. What is still there is the rush, that thrill a good horse can still give even a legend even in “the twilight of my career.” That twilight has shone a little brighter during this Inter Dominion after McKendry got the call up to partner A G’s White Socks. Just three weeks ago A G’s White Socks wasn’t coming to the series and McKendry was resigned to watching it from the driver’s room after his sole Interdom steer, trotter Lemond, was withdrawn. Now McKendry goes into Saturday’s final with two heat wins under his belt and maybe the best chance to upset hot favourite Ultimate Sniper. A G’s White Socks reminded us how good he is with his two heat wins and peeled off a sizzling last 800m in defeat last Friday. McKendry has also had an Interdom to remember, perfectly patient winning his opening night heat, aggressive enough to attack an All Stars runner and wrest control of his second round heat. So how does it feel to be one of the stories of an Inter Dominion which must have felt like it had passed McKendry by? “It has been fun,” he says with his trademark half giggle. “After Lemond got pulled out I thought I wouldn’t be part of it all and then I got the call up for this horse, which I really didn’t see coming. “I didn’t know what to expect from him but I have really enjoyed it. “Even at this stage of my career, when maybe I am getting close to winding down a bit, that feeling is still the same when you drive a good horse. “When they let down and sprint is a great feeling. It is fun, a rush, even now.” That is one reason McKendry still loves going to work at 64 years old, because the sensation is the same as four decades ago on the training tracks of Mid Canterbury. “I love the speed. I always have. And when you sit behind the good horses and they let down, it feels special. “So to be here, driving a horse trained by Barry in the final, it is a real bonus.” It is odd to think that McKendry needs to remind us of his talents. He is, after all, one of only two New Zealanders with over 3000 domestic wins. The other is his good mate Tony Herlihy, who McKendry has sat next to in the Alexandra Park driver’s room for as long as anybody remembers. Like famous Brazilian soccer players they require only one name inside the industry, say Tony or Maurice and everybody knows who you are talking about. But their Inter Dominion records are vastly different, Herlihy with 37 total career victories at the Interdoms including four trotting finals, McKendry has nine heat wins. That is not about ability, but opportunity. And those opportunities are becoming rarer. “It has always been hard to get on good horses, it is a hard game,” says McKendry. “And it is harder now because there are less horses and less trainers, and many of the bigger stables already have their drivers. “But I am still getting a few drives so I am in no hurry to retire. I think I’ll know when I have had enough or I am starting to lose it.” The last fortnight tells us that won’t be any time soon. So what does Saturday hold for McKendry and his rejuvenated Grand Final hope? From barrier seven A G’s White Socks looks best placed of the favourites to try and bustle to the lead and maybe take a sit on hot favourite Ultimate Sniper? “Hard to tell,” says the understated one. “It doesn’t look the strongest front line so he might be able to work around them and get in front of Natalie’s horse. “But if I try and it doesn’t work out that can go bad. I’ll ask Barry (Purdon) what he thinks but he will probably tell me he is fine with whatever I think,” comes the laugh again. “So you can’t have too much of a plan. Sometimes you go on your gut instinct as the gate pulls away, “And to be honest, sometimes that is completely wrong.” The good news for A G’s White Socks punters is, 3259 times the gut instinct has been right. THE MAGIC MAN Who: Maurice McKendry Career record: 3259 New Zealand driving victories. Stakes: $28,846,425 in New Zealand. Highlights: 10 New Zealand driving premierships. Next: Pilots A G’s White Socks in the $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park on Saturday night.   By Michael Guerin

John Dickie thought his chance to win at Inter Dominion was gone. Which makes having Paramount King in the $150,000 trotting final at Alexandra Park on Saturday night that much more special for the South Auckland trainer. Dickie is a trotting man. He and son Joshua also train pacers and do that well, but for decades the Dickie name has been conjured up images of talented squargaiters in their maroon, green and gold colours. Of John’s 581 career wins in New Zealand, 288 have been with trotters. That is just under half but almost all of his flagbearers have been unhoppled heroes. But the Dickies haven’t won an Inter Dominion Final and in 2012 a crazy decision left John thinking he never would. The trotting series was canned after that year, with a case made that with it heading to NSW and then West Australia a trotting series wouldn’t fly there. And there was some concerns about brand confusion with people unable to get their heads around by having two Inter Dominion Finals. It was, of course, nonsense and thankfully the trotters returned last season, with the Dickies eventually running second in the final with Speeding Spur, albeit a promoted one. Dickie’s sometimes unrequited love of the Inters dates back further, to when Great Life finished fourth to Tussle at Addington in 1987. “He actually dead heated on the points table with one of Wes Butt’s trotters so the two sets of owners were called into a room and they tossed a coin to see who started in the final. We won the toss and ran fourth in the final.” With the series now back from the dead, this Saturday will be extra special to the father and son team. Alexandra Park is their home track these days and John loves having first-night national record setter Paramount King up against the other kings of the gait. They will all be there: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Barry Purdon, Phil Williamson, Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, Tony Herlihy, Paul Nairn and even Robert Dunn has emerged as a trotting training force. Add in two Aussies and this is a real Inter Dominion Final.  “I thought that chance was gone for us,” says Dickie of the 2012 scrapping of the series.  “So to have it back, to still have a chance of winning it means a lot to me and now Josh.  “We know that might not happen this Saturday, with the second line draw not helping but you can’t win if you aren’t in.” Paramount King has been the greatest surprise of this series, a former age group talent who has risen to new heights and he is rated one of the six or seven winning chances in the final. But Dickie, as you might expect from a man who has spent decades piecing together the puzzle that is a trotter, is realistic about what Saturday may hold. “I am not sure if we can win, especially from the second line draw,” he offers. “He should be better this week because the first night took a little sting out of him for the next two heats but he might still be a year or two away from winning an Inter. “To be honest, Winterfell might be a moral. He and Habibi Inta, who we haven’t seen the best of in this series, are the two in the final I think can work and win so maybe Winterfell will be too good from his draw. “But even if that happens we will be happy. It is great to have the trotting series back and back at Alexandra Park. “They are special things. They bring a lot of different people and horses together. “It is the Inter Dominion. It is just different from a normal race.”   Dunn to drive for All Stars After terrorizing the All Stars for the last couple of seasons John Dunn will join them for the $500,000 Pacing Final this Saturday. Dunn has been the surprise call-up to partner Ashley Locaz for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at Alexandra Park The stable has five in the group one and while three drives were easily settled, Blair Orange will be the new driver for Thefixer and Dunn will partner Ashley Locaz. There is some irony in the decision as no driver in New Zealand could have parked out All Stars-trained horses as much as Dunn, predominantly driving for his father Robert, in the last few seasons. It is a strategy that has worked for him and helped make racing interesting and obviously gained him enough respect to be called in as a pinch hitter. Dunn would still drive regular partner Classie Brigade should that horse, listed as the emergency, make the field.   Michael Guerin

Driver Natalie Rasmussen says she can’t see hot favourite Ultimate Sniper getting to his favourite position in Saturday’s $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park. So she will take the next best option: being in front. The four-year-old has been unbeaten in the three rounds of heats and is $1.45 to win the final after drawing barrier five. His draw is made even better by his key rivals, many of them stablemates, drawing worse, with A G’s White Socks at barrier seven and Chase Auckland (9), Cruz Bromac (11) and Thefixer (13) all on the second line. After being trapped three wide in every heat of the series and still being too strong, Ultimate Sniper will be expected to stroll to the front after the early shuffling of positions and win. But Rasmussen, who also co-trains Ultimate Sniper, says he would probably be better sitting parked. “I know that sounds strange but sometimes he doesn’t concentrate quite so well in front,” says Rasmussen. “He is still good there but he really loves staring horse down from parked, as we have seen when he has been wide during this series.”So why not just sit parked with the hot favourite, as crazy as that sounds with Rasmussen and everybody else expecting the lead to be there? “I don’t know any of the other drivers in the front line are going to want him outside them staring them down,” she says matter-of-factly. A reluctant outside leading when they would rather have Ultimate Sniper’s back could mean a slower mid-race tempo which would bring the outsiders into the race and allow the likes of Cruz Bromac and Thefixer to creep closer three wide. So with one stablemate in Ashley Locaz and three outsiders rated $51 or longer drawn inside her, Rasmussen should only have to hold A G’s White Socks to her outside at the start and she probably ends up in front, with On The Cards and My Kiwi Mate the most likely followers. Rasmussen says all five of the All Stars pacing finalists have come through their busy week of heats in great order as well as trotting final favourite Winterfell. “We couldn’t be happier with how they have handled it and if anything they look like the series has brought them on,” she said. “They are likely to have their final fast work on Wednesday.”With Rasmussen on Ultimate Sniper and Mark Purdon sticking with Cruz Bromac, Blair Orange has picked up the drive on Thefixer, Tim Williams stays on Chase Auckland but no driver has been confirmed yet for Ashley Locaz. The stable has two odds-on final favourites with Winterfell $1.90 to win the trotting final after drawing perfectly at barrier two. He looked far more settled and happier winning his heat in national record time on Friday and while he is still not foolproof, Rasmussen says the big trotter has thrilled Purdon with his improvement in this series. It may not be a case of Winterfell simply strolling to the lead and on to the winner’s circle though, with Majestic Man drawn barrier four and with superior gate speed and therefore the likely early leader is driver Brad Williamson desires. But with Paramount King, Tough Monarch, Massive Metro and Marcoola all drawn to settle back the trotting final looks certain to contain plenty of movement. PACING FINAL, $500,000, 2700m mobile 1: My Kiwi Mate 2: Sicario 3: Ashley Locaz 4: On The Cards 5: Ultimate Sniper 6: Mach Shard 7: A G’s White Socks 8: Triple Eight 9: Chase Auckland (2nd line) 10: San Carlo 11: Cruz Bromac 12: Classie Brigade (em) 13: Thefixer   TROTTING FINAL $150,000, 2700m mobile 1: Big Jack Hammer 2: Winterfell 3: Destiny Jones 4: Majestic Man 5: Monty Python (em) 6: Valloria 7: Bonnie Highlander 8: Marcoola 9: Temporale (2nd line) 10: Habibi Inta 11: Tough Monarch 12: Paramount King 13: Massive Metro   Michael Guerin

The best indication of how remarkable Ultimate Sniper has been in this Inter Dominion pacing series is his own stablemate Cruz Bromac. Because after three wonderful runs in the series Cruz Bromac would make a compelling Inter Dominion Final favourite yet Ultimate Sniper is actually odds-on to win the title and nearly $3 tighter than Cruz Bromac in the pre-draw market. The All Stars pair wrapped the final round of the series at Alexandra Park last night by winning their heats, securing the top two spots on the points table and at the head of the market. After two huge but luckless runs on the first two nights Cruz Bromac was dominant last night, re-taking the lead from Thefixer and never looking in danger of defeat. Considering he won the New Zealand Cup less than a month ago you can make a strong case he can win the $500,000 final next Saturday. But while he has been good, very good and excellent in his three heats, Ultimate Sniper has been unbelievable, unbelievable and okay, we are starting to get used to this, but unbelievable again in this three heats.  After two monster wins in his first two heats Ultimate Sniper was expected to loop the field, sit parked and win the first heat last night. It didn’t pan out that way and he was stuck three wide for the last lap and looked to be labouring at the 600m mark, $1.40 punters thinking the bubble may be about to burst. But driver Natalie Rasmussen was foxing, conserving energy and when she asked the four-year-old to get busy in the home straight he was equal measures brave and brutal. He is in that zone some horses find themselves in during an Inter Dominion and is $1.90 to win the final before tomorrow’s barrier draw while Cruz Bromac is $4.80. Champion trainer Mark Purdon drove Cruz Bromac last night and beaming at how the athletic pacer has bounced through the series but is adamant Ultimate Sniper is their best chance in the final. “Cruz is going great but what Snipe has been doing in the heats makes him our best chance, he has been enormous.”If Ultimate Sniper draws well tomorrow and looks any chance to wresting the lead in the final he could get as short as $1.50. But if he draws the second line and Cruz Bromac, who has good gate speed, draws to lead the market gap will close. Australia has ended up with three in the final as has Barry Purdon, whose training performance to get A G’s White Socks, On The Card and Mach Shard into the great race a stunning effort considering where they sat two weeks ago. Barry also has Marcoola through to the $150,000 trotting final where Mark could potentially have he favourite in Winterfell. The latter was outstanding trotting a national record for 2700m winning the later trotting heat last night and looks a happy horse, hitting the ground more squarely and racing more generously last night. The other trotting heat was won in professional style by Temporale, who used his gate speed to lead and control. The trotting final looks more open than the pacers, with up to seven winning chances and two Australians in the mix. The pre-barrier draw field for the $500,000 Inter Dominion pacing final on Saturday is.—- Ultimate Sniper, Cruz Bromac, A G’s White Socks, Chase Auckland, Thefixer, Mach Shard, Ashley Locaz, Sicario, San Carlo, Triple Eight, On The Cards, My Kiwi Mate. Em: Classie Brigade.   Michael Guerin

Night three of an Inter Dominion is about two things: motivation and reality. Because while of connections of the 44 horses still in the series all basically want the same thing at Alexandra Park tonight — victory — what they need is different. Probably two thirds of the qualifiers for Saturday week’s $500,000 pacing final are set in stone barring huge form reversals in tonight’s final round of heats, with six to eight rivals chasing the last four slots. In the trotting series there looks to be seven winning chances for their $150,000 final and they are all as good as in the group one already. Of course everybody would like another win tonight, such the nature of competitive sport and the Interdoms can be an expensive time off the track so money comes in handy. But there are still differing levels of motivation going into tonight’s four heats. Some have to get good points otherwise their series is over. Others know they are in the final and that is where reality kicks in. Take A G’s White Socks for example. He has been incredible in this series for trainer Barry Purdon and driver Maurice McKendry and both would love him to clean sweep the series. But he is obviously safely in the final and tonight is in a heat where two New Zealand Cup winners in Cruz Bromac and Thefixer are expected to lead and trail. Purdon is adamant barrier two on the second line is perfect for A G’s White Socks because he should be midfield on the outer without having to work. But is McKendry really going to take off and attack potential Thefixer, knowing he almost certainly won’t beat him if he does? And if he does break him doesn’t that just make him vulnerable to Cruz Bromac, let alone give A G’s White Socks a headache a week out from the a final worth almost 17 times more than tonight’s race? Sure, they want to win. But the reality is he may not be able to if the race pans out as many think and it might be silly to try and find out. The same could apply, although not quite as dramatically, to Majestic Man in the last trotting heat. He has been sensational during this series but can’t lead from the second line so why would Brad Williamson send him mid-race to attack Winterfell or Massive Metro, potentially giving him a gutbuster for no profit. In a smaller field he can still win but in a race likely to lack tempo his odds will be too short. On the flip side of that coin are horses like Bling It On, San Carlo and Classie Brigade, who need to move and get forward before the sprint goes on, wanting at least top-six finishes to qualify for their finals. They have motivation to be in the finish, even if they can’t win. Motivation plus reality in the final round of heats of an Inter Dominion over 2700m, equals back those who can win without flattening themselves. Oh, and Ultimate Sniper, who the normal rules don’t seem to apply to just now.   By Michael Guerin

Natalie Rasmussen is happy to admit she was wrong. Because being wrong might just win her next week’s $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park. Driving an Inter Dominion winner would be nothing new for Rasmussen, she partnered Blacks A Fake to win four of them even before she joined partner Mark Purdon to set up their super stable. That stable now dominates the market for the pacing final on Saturday week, with five of the six favourites, only series surprise package A G’s White Socks crashing their party. But while the All Stars being favourites to win any big race is hardly a surprise both Rasmussen and Purdon were adamant just six days ago that Cruz Bromac was their best chance of winning the series. Not any more. “Yeah, the order has changed,” says Rasmussen. “Not that Cruz has done anything wrong because he hasn’t but Sniper has really stepped up. “We went into the series with a little question mark over how he would handle the right handed track but he has been perfect. “And you find in a series like this some horses love it, they love the high pressure racing. “He has been that horse in this series. When he won on Tuesday night once he got a head of steam up he just kept going. “I think it has taken us until this stage of his campaign to get him really fit and to be honest I have a suspicion, with him being a rig, he might have been pinching himself a month or so ago when he was doing things wrong. “But at the moment he is exactly where he needs to be.” For most horses the second line barrier draw Ultimate Sniper faces in his 2700m mobile heat tomorrow night would be a market cooler but has has spent much of the series three wide so Rasmussen doesn’t bat an eyelid over giving away a start tomorrow night. “He will probably go sit parked if he can’t get the lead and he will love it there. “So he is now our top chance, as everybody has probably seen.”Ultimate Sniper is the $2.4 favourite to win the final and if he wins tomorrow night what barrier he draws on Sunday will determine whether he starts odds-on for the final. The pacing series’s other unbeaten star A G’s White Socks also faces a second line draw in the later heat tomorrow but his task is enormously more difficult than Ultimate Sniper because Cruz Bromac (2) and Thefixer (4) are ideally drawn to control the race. Thefixer has been luckless in both starts in the series but Rasmussen says that will be an advantage tomorrow night. “He hasn’t had the hard runs some of the other horses have and he will be ready to do some work,” she says. “He has hit the line really well both nights and he has to go close on Friday."The pacing final is probably two-thirds finalised with those sitting between 9th and 15th on the points table scrapping out the last spots in the 12-strong field, with the most market relevant horse on the cusp being Bling It On, who goes into tomorrow night 13th equal and needing to leapfrog a couple of rivals. He should and will probably join My Kiwi Mate and San Carlo as the Australians in the final. The trotting series is more even, with probably seven horses still given realistic winning chances in the $150,000 final on Saturday week.   By Michael Guerin

Craig Demmler says the door to the Inter Dominion final is ajar, My Kiwi Mate just has to pace through it. And the 2700m of the final round of heats for the series at Alexandra Park on Friday night gives him in the perfect chance to do just that. My Kiwi Mate all but earned his spot in the A$500,000 final with his third placing on Tuesday night and he goes into Friday seventh on the points ladder with 19, giving him a huge buffer over the 13th equal pair of On The Cards and Bling It On, who sit on 13 points and at the moment tied for the emergency spot. That would suggest My Kiwi Mate could run seventh or even eighth on Friday night but Victorian horseman Demmler isn’t thinking too far ahead. “Sure, I’d love to make the final but I don’t want to be worrying about it too much cause we can’t control how the others go. “But we are a long way toward the final and he loves the series racing.” Demmler says the step up to 2700m for the final round of heats and the final will suit My Kiwi Mate, he just wishes he had more distance races to aim him at in Victoria. “He loves following a good speed and he gets a better drawn than some of those others who need points. “So getting into the final is the first thing and we will take anything else as a bonus. “We all know how hard it is going to be to beat a horse like Ultimate Sniper because he is flying but I think on our Victorian form we aren’t far behind Cruz Bromac.”Demmler is loving the series at his good friend Barry Purdon’s property, where some of the big guns of the series are also stationed. Depending on results on Friday night it is very possible five of the pacing Grand Final 12 could come from Purdon’s property as well as Marcoola for the trotting final. “I just love being here for the series, it is iconic,” says Demmler. “This is why we train horses, to come away and race the best and spend time with good friends and make new ones.” The series did however start on a sad note for Demmler, with his uncle Rodney passing away last Friday. “Rodney was in the horses early doors but got out of racing to drive trucks and he was a great guy,” remembers Demmler. “He was a very different guy from Dad (Ted, Rodney’s brother). Louder and more of a party guy. “I got the call from Dad before the heats last Friday to tell me he had passed and it really knocked me. "So I’d love to make the final to give the family something to cheer about.”   Michael Guerin

Brad Williamson might have missed his plane on the way to the Inter Dominions last night but he still got the chance to fly. Because the Oamaru driver and Majestic Man were airbourne in their heat of the trotting series as they threw down the gauntlet to their rivals with a stunning all-the-way win. After some brilliant but luckless performances at Alexandra Park in the past, Majestic Man was able to find the front last night and Williamson, driving for his trainer father Phil, barely looked around as Majestic Man controlled the 1700m mobile before racing clear of Habibi Inta, Massive Metro and Winterfell. Williamson knows he is lucky to have a serious Inter Dominion winning chance at such a young age but he was also lucky just to be in Auckland at all. “I missed my first plane out of Dunedin but it wasn’t my fault,” Williamson sheepishly said after the win. “I tried to check in and there was nobody at the counters and then nothing went right. “I was lucky to get here at all because there was only one seat on the next plane, otherwise I was going home to watch.” Majestic Man’s gate speed is going to be a handy weapon come the $150,000 final on Saturday week but he has also been superb when coming with one run in races like the Rowe Cup so he has plenty of strings to his bow. The second trotting heat last night, and fourth overall, went to Temporale who has re-emerged after trainer Tony Herlihy struggled to pin down soreness issues which bothered him last season. Almost at his wits end Herlihy sent the former Rowe Cup winner out to friends Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett to beach train and they have worked the oracle, with Temporale having been faultless this campaign. He was beaten off the gate last night but soon retook the lead and held the sizzling late run from Marcoola while Paramount King showed his first night win was no fluke his a massive third.   ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE It is going to take a very good horse to deny Ultimate Sniper the Inter Dominion Pacing title in 10 days time. That was the booming message the four-year-old sent to his rivals in the strongest pacing heat last night when he was again three wide for much of the race yet still beat stablemate Cruz Bromac. His win mirrored his stunning first night run when he was three wide for 1400m of his 2200m heat but last night was perhaps even more impressive as he was three wide the entire opening lap. That he could still surge clear at the top of the straight was a graphic example of his incredible stamina and he should only be better over 2700m in Friday night’s last round of heats and the final. Cruz Bromac would have lost few fans in second, with stewards questioning Mark Purdon over failing to hold the parked out position at the 500m mark, with the inquiry being adjourned. Earlier in the night A G’s White Sock continued his remarkable form turnaround since joining Barry Purdon just a week ago when he powered to the lead and was then too good for Chase Auckland. The night was a mixed bag for the Australians though, with Colt Thirty One all but out of the series after being trapped wide and dropping out but My Kiwi Mate, San Carlo and Bling It On still have hopes of making the final. The fields for the final round of heats will be out early this afternoon.   by Michael Guerin

Race 5, 8.20pm, Third pacing heat, 1700m mobile: After the gate speed he showed to lead on night one this looks Chase Auckland’s (1) race to lose. He set up a national record on Friday and comes into by far the weaker of the two heats tonight. If he can hold A G’s White Socks (3) at the start then he should win. The latter was outstanding on Friday and should be handy again, with even a small chance of leading, and is the logical threat. Qsld pacer Colt Thirty One (5) was never a chance coming from last on Friday but is a class horse and it wouldn’t stun to see him go forward hard early, even though he is maybe a better follower. He needs points so could light the race up but would need to be very quick to cross both those inside him. Thefixer (12) hit the line really well on Friday and might be coming right but would need to do something dramatic to win here, with Ashley Locaz (11) in a very similar situation. If the No.1 leads then My Kiwi Mate (9) has definite first four claims. Suggested bet: Chase Auckland should win but anchor him in quinella with A G's White Socks and Colt Thirty One.   Race 6, 8.52, Third trotting heat, 1700m mobile: Winterfell (5) was so good on the first night he picks himself. He has been a real trick to follow for the last 18 months but was strong to the line on Friday. Has better gate speed than many realise so could even go close to leading early. His win odds are short enough but wouldn’t surprise to see him win with Inter Dominions often being about who is spot on, which Friday suggested he might be. Majestic Man (3) sprinted brilliantly late on Friday and if he leads here will take some catching but he hasn’t won a race for a long time for a very good horse. Gets his chance to cross the No.1 here so can win. Habibi Inta (2) was a victim of circumstances on Friday night but hardly hit the line hard so he needs to step up here. He will need to be faster to lead but should at least sit handy which has been how he performs best so expect dramatic improvement. Massive Metro’s (9) draw looks bad but with the only other horse in the second line unruly he can get straight away from the inside and be midfield on the outer. He was very good on night one and could be storming home. Suggested bet: Majestic Man should lead or trail so gets his chance.   Race 7, 9.25pm, Fourth pacing heat, 1700m mobile: The best heat of the series so far and the chance for the Australians to bounce back. San Carlo (1) is a brave horse with maybe enough gate speed to hold the front, and if he does that should aid Bling It On (9), who could trail him. If San Carlo runs hard, which is his style, it is going to make it hard for Ultimate Sniper (7), whose best case scenario is probably being three wide to the breeze. He was nothing short of remarkable after being three wide for 1400m on Friday and might still be good enough to win. Cruz Bromac (8) was also very good on Friday and could turn this race on its head if, and it is a big if, he launches from the outside draw and crosses them all. But his price is short enough. Classie Brigade (5), Mach Shard (3) and Triple Eight (6) are all racing well but their place chances are probably the most realistic. Suggested bet: Back Ultimate Sniper and save on San Carlo.   Race eight, 9.53pm, Fourth trotting heat, 1700m mobile: Marcoola (1), barrier one and sprint trip, sounds very similar to night one where he was good without being scary good. While it looked like he was crossed easily by Temporale (3) on night one driver Sheree Tomlinson didn’t bustle him then but might let him roll more tonight. If he leads he should win but the $1.55 is short considering there is gate speed across the front line. Temporale (3) showed how fast he is early and peaked on his run late Friday but if he jumps to the front here will take plenty of catching. NSW trotter Tough Monarch (9) was too bad to be true on Friday so forgive that and could trail here but his fate lies in Marcoola’s gate speed. Paramount King (8) trotted a national record on Friday and had very high gate speed. Whether Joshua Dickie chooses to use it is the question. He may have surprised on Friday but he can win again.  Suggested bet: Temporale (3) looks a good each way bet.   Michael Guerin

What next from the yo-yo gang? That could be the question harness racing fans are quite fairly asking about our open class trotters heading into the second night of the Interdoms at Alexandra Park tomorrow. While the pacing series produced the largest tote upset of the opening night when A G’s White Socks’s $29.60 dividend just pipped Paramount King’s $28 return, the trotting series was more dramatic for those who didn’t finish in the money. The two horses who won the group ones during New Zealand Cup week just a fortnight earlier finished seventh (Tough Monarch) and sixth (Habibi Inta), leaving themselves in danger of missing the final on Saturday week. Both raced enormously below their group one form at their previous start but their respective trainers Rickie Alchin and Paul Nairn were happy with how they pulled up and are taking a turn the page attitude to tomorrow night. In reality, with only four days between heats they have little other choice. Their performances sums up the wildest start to a trotting season in memory where horses like Marcoola has gone from 12.5 length winners one start to finishing unplaced at their next. He gets the ace draw again tomorrow night and didn’t lose too many fans on night one but hardly gained any new ones so his $1.50 quote tomorrow night is more on record than current form. “I was happy enough with him after the big change of moving stables and think he will get better throughout the series as he settles in here,” said new trainer Barry Purdon. Just as dramatic was the form upswings of Paramount King and Winterfell in winning on night one. Paramount King was beaten 14 lengths in the NZ Trotting Free-For-All the start before when found to have a chest infection after but bounced back to set a new national record on Friday. Winterfell was so bad in the same free-for-all he was pulled out of the Dominion a few days later but was super impressive winning the second heat on night one with a sustained display of speed trotting, reminding us of the horse he was at three. Back then he looked a potential superstar in the making, winning the Sires’ Stakes, Northern Derby and Jewels, dominating a late-season crop that contained Sundees Son, Paramount King and Majestic Mac. But he has been the ultimate yo-yo since, his 15 starts since his Jewels wins bringing five wins but also six unplaced runs. He goes into tomorrow night with the momentum so crucial during Inter Dominion series and with his head back in the game might deserve favouritism for the final if he stays on song. The likes of Temporale, Massive Metro and Majestic Man are at least racing relatively consistently but for all their brave and sometimes brilliant placings they collectively have just one win in their last 22 starts. The upsets of night one’s trotting heats remarkably leaves McLovin still in contention for the final even after missing the first round with illness. He will have a private workout this morning to confirm he takes his place tomorrow night but his task is not as impossible as it first looked. But this trotting series may not come down to the best horse, simply the one who races closest to its best form.   Michael Guerin

R5, 8.04pm: First Trotting Heat, 2200m mobile.— Tactics will be crucial here because if Habibi Inta (4) runs to the front he should win after the way he destroyed the best trotters in the Dominion. Doesn’t have to lead to win but if he does lead it should be race over. That could put likely first leader Big Jack Hammer (1) in the trail and make him a logical chance while Massive Metro (5) is good enough to capitalise if there is more early pressure than expected, although the scratching of McLovin with a temperature yesterday seems to reduce the likelihood of a mid-race challenge. The blowout place chance is Valloria (4). Suggested bet: Habibi Inta to win.   R6, 8.33pm: First Pacing Heat, 2200m mobile.— Chase Auckland (3) hit peak form during the Cup carnival at Addington and races just as well here. Has decent gate speed on not a fast front line so should get to the marker pegs and have options. Ultimate Sniper (6) is not quite as daunting right-handed but if he leads or gets to control the race he can win but his fixed odds  look unders. Colt Thirty One (8) is a very good Qsld pacer who loves to follow a hot speed and could get that here is fellow Aussie rep San Carlo (5) attacks. Ashley Locaz (2) and even Solid Gold (1) have First4 chances while Our Uncle Sam (11) was brave here last Friday but in weaker company. Suggested bet: Chase Auckland to win, Colt Thirty One small saver.   R7, 9.03pm: Second trotting heat, 2200m mobile.— If the best version of Marcoola (1) turns up he should win. He clipped over a second off the national record for this trip last season and has a stunning sprint record. If he holds the front, and the withdrawal of Credit Master increases his chances of doing that, your only concern is a below-par performance. That scenario would put Majestic Man (9) in a perfect slot to run in the money while Tough Monarch (7) was very good both days at Addington and has enough gate speed to at least have a miracle shot of crossing the favourite. Temporale (5) is a force in this series but might need others roughed up tonight to win. The enigma is Winterfell (11) who isn’t the horse we all hoped he would be but the penny might drop one day. Maybe tonight, maybe never. Suggested bet: Marcoola to win but Majestic Man also a great fixed odds place bet with TAB paying back to fourth for the heats.   R8, 9.40: Second pacing heat, 2200m mobile.— Heat of the night and a lot will depend on whether the NSW pair of Atomic Red (1) and Bling It On (7) play nice or nasty. If Bling It On, a special horse, can run to the front over possible early leader Atomic Red then the race is his to lose. But, and it is a big BUT, if Atomic Red leads and stays there then Thefixer (9) gets a trail and maybe the confidence boosting run he needs after a ho-hum Cup week. If the tempo is fast early (that means a sub-41 opening 600m) then Cruz Bromac (10) is the most likely mid-race mover as he is in the zone. So much will be decided by how fast they pace that opening lap. Suggested bet: You could split bet the two favourites for a percentage profit but if you want one, Bling It On straight out.   By Michael Guerin

Most in-depth conversations with Paul Nairn about the minutiae of training trotters end up peppered with “I don’t understand, can you explain that.” So when you enquire n as to how freakish last-start Dominion winner Habibi Inta and stablemate Ronald J are heading into tomorrow night’s Inter Dominions at Alexandra Park you have to be prepared for the unusual. Habibi Inta thrashed the best trotters in the country and a couple of Aussies so pointlessly in the Dominion 13 days ago he only needs to near that form to win the opening heat of the Inters tomorrow night. If he races right up to that Dominion demolition the $2.20 TAB fixed odds will be an early Christmas present. So the good news for punters is Habibi Inta feels almost as good in his work this week as he did before the Dominion, thanks in no small way to the fact Nairn’s temporary northern base is close to the Glenbrook steel mill. Sorry, I don’t understand, can you explain that to me. “Because I needed to get some new top on the track I use when I stay up here because there are no horses trained here at the moment,” explains Nairn. “It used to be Bernie Hackett’s old place and it was well set up and then a galloping trainer was based here but nobody trains here any more so the track wasn’t the best. “So I ordered in a big load of top for the track and it was actually quite cheap to get it done because where we are is only 2kms from the steel mill where you buy the stuff from. “It is very good, like crusher dust so the track is better now.” That is handy, since a track is a fundamental part of training most horses and you don’t really want one of the favourites for the Interdoms short of work. Which Habibi Inta isn’t, cause Nairn was thrilled how he worked 3200m in 4:27 on Tuesday, work that felt close to his pre-Dominion training. “Well, it was close to 3200m. But I am not sure because I don’t really know how big the track is here,” says Nairn nonchalantly. Um, I don’t understand. “Well, the track is supposed to be 800m but I think it is 790, or maybe even 780m. I haven’t measured it yet. “But don’t worry about that. His work was very good and he feels right.“And the track is good, it has a little hill on it and my horses seem to love it.”So Ronald J worked well too then? “Actually no, I haven’t been working him. I just ride him.”Ok, you are going to have to explain that to me. “Well I worked him last Thursday and he worked really well so I decided to bring him up for the series to. “But I have been riding him rather that working him. Sometimes twice a day for about 20 minutes and it really makes them sweat. So he seems good.” So you never work your two Inter Dominion trotters together? “Well, I only brought one cart (sulky) up,” explains Nairn. Oh, that makes perfect sense then. Oddities aside the bottom line is both horses have travelled well, settled in and are eating well and Habibi Inta pleased the boss in trackwork on Tuesday. Which means the big horse must be trotting squarely, such an important factor for trotters and one that proves their all-important shoeing is spot on. “Yeah, he worked really well. But actually I worked him without shoes. “His other pair were wearing out so I worked him without them and then re-shod him after so he should be good to go for the whole series now.”
Um, ok. Actually, ah… no, don’t worry. Nairn seems to know what he is doing. He has since way before Call Me Now won him his first Inter Dominion back in 1995, a season in which he had only 40 starters for 22 winners. Because in Paul Nairn’s unusual little world, if they aren’t good enough or ready enough, they don’t start. So don’t sweat it. Just take the $2.20 tomorrow night and enjoy the ride.   ** Canterbury trainer Paul Nairn almost exclusively prepares trotters. ** He is one of the most respected trainers in Australasia with even his most successful peers often in awe of his feats and methods. ** All 344 of his career wins in New Zealand have been with trotters ** He has won trotting’s Triple Crown — the Inter Dominion Final, Dominion and Rowe Cup.   by Michael Guerin

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