Day At The Track
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Iron horse Eamon Maguire has narrowly won tonight's Group One $100,000 NZ Messenger. Eamon Maguire showed blazing gate speed to lead early before handing up to Tony Herlihy driving Star Galleria. In the straight Eamon Maguire (Art Major-Kim Maguire) was always the horse to beat given the great run in transit he had received and he levelled up to Star Galleria and clawed his way to a half head victory.  Driver Natalie Rasmussen gave a lot of the credit for the win to former trainer Graeme Anderson. "We have only had the horse ten days," she said after the race, so a lot of the credit has to go to Graeme. "This horse is a pleasure to have in the barn, he's got perfect manners and he zipped off the gate and got that perfect trail tonight. "A few of them were getting pretty tired near the finish but my guy had that little advantage and held it," she said. Eamon Maguire paced the 2700m mobile in 3-15.7 with a final 800m in 56.2 and 400m in 27.9 seconds.  Star Galleria battled on gamely for second to give sire Art Major the quinella in the race and A G's White Socks ran home well for third.   Eamon Maguire winning the Group One Messenger Harnesslink Media

After being good enough to run second to unbeaten stable mate Princess Tiffany last week, honest filly Kayla Marie gained a deserved win in the 2yo fillies feature at Alexandra Park tonight. Kayla Marie was simply too good for the opposition in tonights Group One $150,000 Magness Benrow Sires Stakes final. Driver Natalie Rasmussen settled back early before making a move mid race to land the park position with 700m to go. In the straight Kayla Marie asserted control early in the run home and cruised to the line to win by nearly a length, beating early leader Havtime and driver Zachary Butcher. Natalie was thrilled with the effort and said after the race, "From the draw I was just a little bit lucky they went hard early and I got around them pretty cheaply. "The wee filly felt great in the run tonight and that run last week tightened her up nicely for this evening. "She has been a bit of a bridesmade in her races and really deserved that win tonight," she said. Kayla Marie set a New Zealand record for a 2yo filly, blasting over the 1700m mobile in 2-01.2 which equated to a mile rate of 1-54.7.  The last 800m was cut out in 57.6 and the last 400m in 27.9 seconds. The All Stars Stable also won with smart trotter Winterfell, who easily accounted for a smart field of trotters in the 2018 Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby. Natalie Rasmussen drove Winterfell and for the second week in the row he was too strong for runner up Majestic Man who again battled on well for second. Kayla Marie winning the fillies feature   Harnesslink Media  

Unbeaten 2yo harness racing filly Princess Tiffany has been scratched from her upcoming race at Alexandra tomorrow night.  The scratching comes after Princess Tiffany suffered an infection after standing on a nail and puncturing her hoof during the race she won at Alexandra Park last Friday night. Natalie Rasmussen said on the All Stars Website, "I think we were always up against it with her because in our experience an infection almost always follows a nail in the foot and it was just a case of whether we might dodge a bullet. "Poi rang this morning (Wednesday) to say he wasn't happy with her so we were not going to risk the best filly around even if we could have. "How long she will be out is not certain," she said. Princess Tiffany was a red hot $1.18 fixed odds win favourite with the TAB for the $150,000 group one fillies Sires Stakes and now the race opens up considerably. The All Stars Stable mates Ruby Rose and Kayla Marie have both firmed into around $4.00 favourites in the race. Bordeaux is also a late scratching later in the programme. The classy trotter is suffering from tie-up issues and a minor laceration and is out of the (Gr1) $150,000 Rowe Cup.   Harnesslink Media

The entire Alexandra Park track has scanned by a mental detector to avoid a recurrence of what could have been a group one disaster there last Friday. But Auckland Trotting Club officials are adamant a nail found driven into the hoof of exceptional juvenile pacing filly Princess Tiffany did not come from the construction sites alongside the track. Princess Tiffany was found to have a nail lodged in the frog, the triangle shaped  section on the bottom of a horse’s hoof, after her group one win in the Caducues Club Classic. Co-trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen believes the filly could have stepped on the nail in her preliminary when she felt her take a misstep, with adrenalin helping her through the race before she showed signs of soreness upon cooling down. The nail drew blood and was removed when Princess Tiffany returned to the stabling area and she was then given antibiotic shots. “She seems to have come through the whole thing well and wasn’t sore this morning,” said co-trainer Mark Purdon. “So while it wasn’t a great thing to happen, we think she will be able to start this Friday. “The main thing is she seems all right and Dominique Dowding (ATC chief executive) rang to talk over the whole situation with us, which we appreciated.” Dowding says while the incident shocked the ATC they are confident the nail didn’t come from one of the two construction sites at Alexandra Park where two apartment buildings are being built. “While we can’t be certain we think that is very doubtful,” says Dowding.  “The construction sites are 8-9 metres back from the track and they are at a stage where nails aren’t being used, mainly metal and bolts. “The guys here who looked at the nail said it was very encrusted with track surface and we are thinking there is a chance it was in the surface material we put on the track last week.  “Either way, the safety of the horses and the drivers is paramount to us and the staff here have been right around the track with a metal detector three times today and found nothing else.”   Dowding says the float park area where the horses arrive and the stabling area will also be scanned.  “We can’t absolutely certain how it got there but we are confident now there is nothing else metal on the track.   “We will also have measures put in place when the construction sites move into a different phase which might involve nails. But as I said, they are a long way from the track.”  Princess Tiffany has a golden opportunity to remain unbeaten and claim another group one in the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Final this Friday, drawing barrier three while her two stablemates and key rivals have drawn the second line over the 1700m. Winterfell will also be short odds in the $100,000 Northern Trotting Derby after he drew the ace but the $100,000 Messenger looks more spicy with a host of the big names drawing the front line.  Last Friday’s Taylor Mile winner A G’s White Socks has barrier two in the 2700m group one, More The Better (three), Eamon Maguire (four) and Star Galleria (barrier seven).  Speeding Spur has been the big win in the draws for the $150,000 Rowe Cup, drawing handy on the front line over 3200m whereas defending champion Temporale (eight) and Enghien (seven) are drawn wide and last Friday’s Anzac Cup winner Lemond will start from the second line.   Michael Guerin

Unbeaten 2yo filly Princess Tiffany has taken out the Group One $110,000 Woodlands Stud Caduceus Classic tonight at Alexandra Park. Driver Natalie Rasmussen had the Art Major filly in a good spot for most of the race and she was too good for the opposition in tonights race, blasting up the inner near the line to beat stable mate Kayla Marie and driver Blair Orange. "She is the complete package this little 2yo", said Natalie after the win. "With her speed you can place her anywhere and she is so genuine and professonal. " I was getting a little bit worried when Blair got away on us a bit on the turn, but to her credit she just picked them up easily." The All Stars Stable landed the trifecta in the race with Bubbled Up and driver Brent Mangos running home in to third place. Princess Tiffany paced the 2200m mobile in 2-42.6, only 0.7 of a second outside the New Zealand record. The last 800m was paced in 56.4 seconds. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen also won the $60,000 Haras Des Trotteurs Sires Stakes during the night with smart 3yo Winterfell. New Zealands top training duo were unlucky to have their good filly Luby Lou scratched out of the race with a minor injury, but got the job done with their second stringer Winterfell. Driver Natalie Rasmussen was happy with the effort of the Majestic Son gelding after he looped around to the breeze mid race and was too strong in the run to the line. "He is pretty green this fellow but he has got that bit of raw talent, and I just let him settle early before making a move. "I wanted to be near them at the turn and not be coming wide when the sprint went on and to his credit he is pretty tough and he stuck it out well,"  she said.   Princess Tiffany winning the Group 1 tonight     Harnesslink Media    

Luby Lou showed she was the best 3yo trotter in the country when she waltzed away to win the $100,000 (Gr1) New Zealand Trotting Derby at Addington raceway tonight. Two weeks ago Luby Lou beat the fillies convincingly in the Trotting Oaks and trainer Mark Purdon was in two minds whether he would start her against the boys in the Derby.  "She is such a natural trotter and I thought if there are a few there that make mistakes, then she will be there to capitalize even if she has to do a bit of work in the running," he said tonight. During tonights race, Luby Lou (Muscle Hill - Luby Ann) was beyond midfield early before getting a beautiful cart up three wide behind the stablemate Winterfell until the home turn. In the straight driver Mark Purdon only had to flick the reins at the classy filly and she powered to the front to win easily by more than three lengths at the line. Winterfell stuck on well for second to make it an All Stars quinella for driver Natalie Rasmussen and Majestic Man battled on well into third. Luby Lou trotted the 2600m mobile in 3-14.2, not far off the New Zealand record of 3-13.5 set by Habibti in this race five years ago.   Luby Lou winning the derby   Harnesslink Media    

War Dan Delight continued on his winning way when he took out the time honoured Alabar New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham yesterday. "He's a little professional, a typical Bettor's Delight and just does what he has to when he has to. Today he felt great in the running and sits on good speed. I think he's going to be a genuine racehorse with really good speed," said driver and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen after the win. For most of the 1609 metre journey she trailed stablemate Jack Jones who ensured there was a strong pace early. Halfway down the straight Rasmussen pushed the colt into a gap and he came home nicely to beat a late charge from another stablemate Another Masterpiece. The winning margin was a neck.  Natalie Rasmussen and War Dan Delight (2)          - Photo Bruce Stewart. "He got a bit lost when he hit the front. He was going to go woosh but then when there was nothing to chase he went ........ okay (knocked off). I think a few gear changes will sort that out."  War Dan Delight is out of the seven win Elsu mare Miss Elsie which won two of her five two year old starts including her debut at the Northern Southland meeting in January 2010. Miss Elsie, as a broodmare, has also left Raukapuka Ruler which has won six of his fifteen starts.  He's owned by Australian Danny Zavitsanos and was bought at the 2017 Sale of the Stars for $90,000 when named Horotane Jack. Rasmussen says she's had a bit to do educating War Dan Delight.  "I've had a lot to do with him. He was just borderline early on and we ummed and arred. I had to iron out a few little niggles with him. After his first or second trial he thought 'ah I am a racehorse' because he's just so casual. Even in the trail today he was very kind and at the 1000 I had to turn the stick around and say come on, wake up. But he's going to go places."  The time of 1-53.3 was a new race, track and Southland record for two year olds. The previous record of 1-54.3 was jointly held by Kindergarten Stakes winners Le Sol (2010) and Itz Better To Win (2014).  "No surprises there. The track was lightning fast. Just beautiful and in great order."  It was the seventh time Mark Purdon has won the Kindergarten and the fourth time in the last five years that the Purdon/Rasmussen training combination have won the race. Purdon, as a solo trainer, won it in 2003 with Lennon and again in 2013 with Messini. In 2008 he won it with Sir Clive who he trained in partnership with Grant Payne. His last five winners with Rasmussen have been; 2016 - Pacing Major, 2015 - Waikiki Beach and 2014 with Itz Bettor To Win. The win also gives War Dan Delight a good chance of completing the time honoured treble of the Sapling Stakes (Ashburton), Kindergarten Stakes (Wyndham) and Welcome Stakes (Addington). The last horse to do that was Pacing Major in 2016.   And in a major move, the Rolleston training partnership recently decided to buy fewer yearlings at the sales so it's likely that they'll have fewer two year olds next season.  "We ended up with about 18 instead of thirty or forty so we can concentrate on each individual a bit more." Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Sensational harness racing 3yo Chase Auckland was back in winning form tonight, easily winning the $235,000 Woodlands Stud Northern Derby in race and New Zealand record time.  The imposing son of Auckland Reactor has now won eight races from nine starts this season, with his only defeat coming last week, when he was beaten by stablemate Sicario in the Derby prelude. Sicario ran second tonight giving trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen the Derby quinella. Chase Auckland (Auckland Reactor - Delicata) did not get it easy in tonights race and had to work hard to get to the front. However once getting there he never looked like getting headed and he cruised to victory in 3:16.8 for the 2700m mobile. Driver Natalie Rasmussen was full of praise for the 3yo after the race and said, "He raced well wide for a long way and I had to let him settle before committing him to take the front. All credit to the horse, he tried real hard and always felt great in the run."   "He actually felt like he could not get beat when he got to the front."  "It was great to wear the teal pants and win in a race like this," she said. The All Stars Stable had a very successful night also winning with Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke. Princess Tiffany won the 2yo fillies $80,000 Delightful Lady Classic after sitting parked for the whole trip, while Jesse Duke put in an amazing run when winning the Group One $100,000 Young Guns. The impressive Jesse Duke (Bettor's Delight - Daisy Dundee) looked like he would be unlucky for the second week in a row when he was squeezed and broke early, but he picked himself up and zoomed home out wide from last at the turn to win narrowly in a 1:55.0 mile rate. His run was one of the best 2yo performances seen on the track in recent years. Chase Auckland winning the Derby   Harnesslink Media    

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

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

Two absolute superstars of harness racing have joined the field for the prestigious Lexus of Macarthur Lady Drivers' Invitational Race at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Miracle Mile night, Saturday, February 24. Natalie Rasmussen and Kerryn Manning will be driving in this annual event, which has a history of showcasing the best lady drivers from all around Australasia. Many of the stars are based in New South Wales these days, which gives the locals a great chance of matching their skills with two of the most decorated women drivers the sport has ever had. Club Menangle and Lexus of Macarthur today announced the field for this year's race would consist of: Amanda Turnbull Lauren Tritton Ashlee Grives Martelle Maguire Ellen Rixon KerryAnn Turner Angela Hedges Emma Turnbull Kerryn Manning Nat Rasmussen While Rasmussen and Manning confirmed their attendance, the NSW-based drivers were selected from last season's premiership, except for Martelle Maguire, who is the reigning champion from last year's feature. Of course, if one of the drivers does have a horse engaged as a trainer, there are three more enthusiastic young drivers waiting to step into the spotlight and take their places. They are: Madi Young, Mckaylar Barnes and Laura Spencer. On a star-studded night's harness racing, featuring the $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile and an incredible five more Group One features, the $25,000 Lexus Lady Drivers Invitational will attract plenty of interest as our best women drivers battle for supremacy. Michael Court

Natalie Rasmussen has appealed the suspension she received when driving Heaven Rocks into third place in this years Hunter Cup. Natalie stated on the All Stars Website, she feels the three week penalty she received for "half carting" during the Hunter Cup was excessive and has a stay of proceedings until her appeal against the penalty is held. The penalty would prevent her driving Heaven Rocks, The Devii's Own, Partyon etc on Miracle Mile day at Menangle. "It is the first time I have been charged with that offence  and compared with what other drivers were receiving for penalty it seems very harsh" Natalie says that Heaven Rocks receiving a warning for barrier manners at Ballarat which led to his removal from the mobile draw after the Hunter Cup was "news to us" "We didn't know about that and indeed we weren't told about the Hunter Cup decision either. It is a blow for "Mene's" chances." Meanwhile Lazarus is primed for a tilt at the $750,000 Group 1 Miracle Mile to be run at Menangle on the 24th February.  The current track and Australasian mile record is 1-47.5 which was set by All Stars runner Have Faith In Me in the 2016 Miracle Mile. Mark Purdon has said in the media, "Lazarus could go a 1-46 mile if needed", which would obliterate the current record by more than a second if he can run that sort of time.   Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing giant Heaven Rocks will target the Hunter Cup as his next assignment, after holding off a gallant Lennytheshark when winning the Ballarat Pacing Cup last night. In the hands of Natalie Rasmussen, Heaven Rocks mustered enough speed to lead from barrier one and then only had to hold off the main danger Lennytheshark who tracked him all the way from his inside second row draw.  "He was a bit hot and cold during the race, but it was a good run to win," said Natalie. "His next start will be the Hunter Cup and then it will be on to Sydney for the Miracle Mile. That Menangle track will suit him with his speed," she said. Heaven Rocks was getting tired over the last 50m, but it was understandable after he paced the 2710m mobile in a 1-55.9 mile rate, beating a closing Lennytheshark by half a neck at the line. It was a good night for the All Stars Stable who also produced Spankem to comfortably win the second heat of the Victoria Derby in a 1-56.7 mile rate beating Code Bailey and The Brooklyn Brawler. All Stars runner The Devils Own ran a close third in the first heat of the derby, which was won by the Emma Stewart trained The Poster Boy.   Heaven Rocks winning last nights Ballarat Pacing Cup.     Harnesslink Media  

Interest in Lot 156 at next month's harness racing Ladbrokes Australian Pacing Gold Sale in Melbourne is expected to increase following tonight's Ballarat Pacing Cup. While the colt was always going to attract some spirited bidding, the number of buyers looking to purchase the yearling is destined to grow. From Group Two winner Mendelico, the youngster is by top stallion Sportswriter. Mendelico is better-known as the dam of Heaven Rocks, which led throughout Ballarat's $100,000 Group One feature. With co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen in the cart, Heaven Rocks began quickly to find the front from the pole before accounting for Lennytheshark, which trailed the pacemeker from the inside of the second row. Shadow Sax suffered his first defeat for the season when eight metres away third. "He is such an electrifying horse when he puts his mind to it," Rasmussen said. "Because he can be erratic you've always got to be a little weary, but tonight he did well. "He got a little keen in the middle stages and took a bit to come back to me, but it was a good run overall." Also an APG purchase, Heaven Rocks rated a slick 1:55.9 over 2710 metres, taking his record to 12 wins and five placings from 25 starts for earnings of $419,818. To be given "a few light days", the son of Rock N Roll Heaven will then be aimed at the A G Hunter Cup at Melton on February 3. "The Hunter Cup will be his next race," Rasmussen said. "After that he will head up to Sydney for the Miracle Mile, which will really suit him. "He's such a quick horse, so a fast sprint down Menangle's long straight is something he will enjoy." Ballarat Pacing Cup APG Media

Better B Amazed might have found the right race to kick off the final leg of her career tonight. The national-record-holding mare is getting close to retirement, with the group one Breeders Stakes at Addington in a few months her last shot at the highest honour before she retires for what will be a very commercial broodmare career. After a difficult summer during which she missed her main aim, the Queen Of Hearts, Better B Amazed has pleased trainer Steve Telfer in her recent work and finds herself back over her favourite distance at Alexandra Park tonight. She has won five of her seven attempts over 1700m, twice beating open class stablemate No Doctor Needed under those conditions in the spring. Tonight she meets a mixed bag of horses assessed well below her, an out of sorts Motown and Northview Hustler, who ran out of his skin to finish fifth in the Auckland Cup last start. Sprint races at Alex Park are often tricky, particularly from wide draws, but if they go hard Better B Amazed can start her final campaign with a win. Telfer holds a big hand at tonight's first Alex Park meeting of the year with winning hopes in three other races, not bad considering there are only six pacing races on tonight's eight-race card and Telfer doesn't train trotters. The markets for trotting races are often dominated by trainers John and Josh Dickie and they will have a huge hand to play in the two trots tonight with Sertorius (race two) and Girls On Film (race four). Sertorius meets some in-form rivals but is far better than his current assessment while Girls On Film is living up to her huge sales price and looks the early Trotting Oaks favourite. Later in the night the first juvenile fillies race of the season will see Miss Streisand start a warm favourite after she smashed most of her opponents at workouts recently. Meanwhile, Auckland Cup winner Vincent has been scratched from tomorrow night's A$100,000 Ballarat Cup after bumping a leg yesterday. "At this stage it is only as a precaution and we will have an ultrasound taken to see how serious it is," said co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen. "But we are hoping to still get him to the Chariots of Fire in Sydney next month." New Zealand still has Heaven Rocks in the Ballarat Cup and Spankem and The Devil's Own in strong Victoria Derby heats tomorrow night. Michael Guerin

The king has gone to a whole new level. Which is bad news for Lazarus's rivals in tonight's A$300,000 Fremantle Cup in Perth and any others who get in his way as he starts a 43-day, three-state campaign aimed at A$2.1 million worth of races. The champion New Zealand pacer is a $1.30 favourite to win tonight's 2536m mobile (held at 12.44am NZ time) against many of the horses he thrashed in last month's Inter Dominion final on the same track, with the main addition being his own stablemate Ultimate Machete. While some bookies have Ultimate Machete the second favourite and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen makes the trip to Perth to drive him, Purdon says he won't be beating Lazarus.   "I think something would need to happen to Laz for him to get beaten, even as good as Ultimate Machete is going," says Purdon. "He is just loving it here and I think the hard racing he has had has improved him and he has gone to another level, a level the others aren't at. "He feels fantastic and he is used to sitting parked to win over here now, which he will probably have to do again. But I think all the hard racing he has had has toughened him up and made him even better." Just as important as that toughness is Lazarus's soundness, which Purdon says shouldn't be a probem in the five group one races he contests over the next six weeks, ending in the Miracle Mile. "He is very sound so all going well that won't be an issue and a lot of these top horses are facing similar programmes. "So the six weeks might be harder on them than it is on him." Ultimate Machete has been outstanding in Perth but with his lack of gate speed he faces being three wide for at least part of the race and that suggests a local like Chicago Bull could get closest to Lazarus, as he did in the Inter Final. Closer to home at Cambridge tonight, trainer Steve Telfer finds himself in the rarest of all racing situations, going into a tote race knowing he will win. Telfer trains all six starters in race two at Cambridge tonight, a feat occasionally matched in smaller non-tote races in New Zealand but almost unheard of in a proper race, especially one with some high class pacers. "We have a lot of horses in this grade and I am grateful to the club for holding the race but it is a weird feeling knowing you are going to win it no matter what." That has sent Telfer searching for five sets of his colours, with Valor Lustre racing in owner Ivan Court's colours. Perhaps the best of the Steve Six is American Brave, who has won three of just seven starts but comes with a warning tonight as he hasn't raced since the Sires' Stakes Final at Addington two months ago. "He trialled well last week and was going to have another this weekend but they aren't on so he is here instead. "Because of that lack of hard fitness I don't want him having a hard run early so he might look for cover and that can often be a tricky way to win at Cambridge," says Telfer. "While small fields can be hard to work out I'd say our best two chances are Triple Eight and Step Up." Telfer also has a huge chance with Ideal Roman in tomorrow's Parawai Cup as the northern grass track circuit returns. MIchael Guerin

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