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Chase Auckland may have has lost two weeks out of his NZ Cup preparation with a minor injury but that is by no means the end of the penny section as the Aussies say. "It's a muscle thing, something he has just nicked in  the paddock and is nothing serious" Natalie said "We have put him on ultrasound treatment and we expect that it will be all cleared up in two weeks tops" "If that is the way it works out it doesn't threaten a Cup preparation but any longer and it could be a problem from that point of view. But I doubt it will take any longer than that and probably not that long" Chase Auckland returned to the stable recently to begin his new preparation which is not guaranteed to end in a NZ Cup attempt anyway. With all the rich four year old features on both sides of the Tasman through the spring and summer it is being viewed as an option in a perfect scenario but nothing beyond that at this stage.    Courtesy of All Stars Website

Trainer Gary Hall Sr wants to set the record straight, on two fronts, Firstly, he’s aware of varying reports about NZ Cup plans with his stable star Chicago Bull. Bottom he’ll be there unless something unexpected happens between now and November. Secondly, the driving force behind the planned Addington raid is itch left to scratch after three aborted trips across with Hall Sr’s former champion pacer Im Themightyquinn. “No doubt, that’s part of the fire in the belly. The fact I’d set Quinny for race so many times only to have things go wrong,” he said. “I’ve been to the NZ Cup, it’s such a great event and raceday, and I’d always wanted to be part of it. Quinny would’ve been the perfect horse, but this little guy will give it a real shake if we can get him there at his top. “It’s just about arranging the travel. I want to get across early to have a lead-up run, they all say it’s crucial. “So it’s likely I’ll go the Victoria Cup at Melton a month before the NZ Cup then go across to Christchurch from there.” It’s pretty clear. This is no “possible” trip. It’s happening unless anything derails. Judging by Chicago Bull’s arrogant first-up win at Gloucester Park last Friday night, he’s come back as well as ever. And Hall Sr estimated he was “only about 75 per cent” wound-up. Chicago Bull settled back, buzzed around the field early to take the lead, and cruised home to win as he liked, albeit against B-graders. “It’s just the sort of run we hoped for first-up. He’s come through it well,” Hall Sr said. “I got a call last night asking if I’d whiz him across to Brisbane for the Blacks A Fake this week after all the drama of the Sunshine Sprint, but that’s a definite no. He’s not ready and it’s not part of the plan. “There are no feature races here for him. He’ll just go through the free-for-alls, there’s another one next Friday, then we’ll work out if the Victoria Cup fits the travel plans to get him to NZ.” The inevitable comparisons come between Chicago Bull and Imthemightyquinn, but Hall Sr shuts them down pretty quickly. “Put it this way, when I took Quinny to the races I expected to win most of the time, with this little guy I hope to win,” he said. “But, what I will say is that Chicago Bull is still on the up and he’s done more at this stage of his career than Quinny had done so it’s exciting to see where he can end up.” Adam Hamilton

Don’t let Chase Auckland’s place near the top of the early New Zealand Cup markets fool you. Because while trainer Mark Purdon has confirmed the superstar three-year-old will be nominated for the great race he is anything but certain to start. Chase Auckland was unheard of this time last year but has emerged as our best three-year-old pacer, winning eight of his nine starts for nearly $400,000 in stakes. A mid-season injury saw him robbed of his shot at the New Zealand Derby and Jewels but after winning the Sires’ Stakes, Sales Series and Northern Derby he will be crowned three-year-old of the season at the national awards on September 29. The silver lining to his post-Northern Derby problems are that he was in the spelling paddock earlier than a fellow three-year-old star like Sheriff so will be back racing in plenty of time to get the miles in his legs needed for the 3200m Cup on November 13. But Purdon says while the Cup is the first aim it is still a tentative target. “He will be nominated and then we will let him tell us if he is ready for it,” he explains. “Because of the rating he will be on he will have to race the best horses at some stage early in the season and that will give us a guide as to whether he is ready for the Cup that early or whether we wait to later in the season to target an Auckland Cup. “So he will start on a Cup campaign but if we think he is not ready he could do what Ultimate Machete did this season, miss the Cup and wait for the Free-For-All.” That strategy worked last year when Ultimate Machete wisely dodged stablemate Lazarus in the Cup and won the Free-For-All three days later but this year’s Cup is far more open without the enormous judder bar that was Lazarus in the way. The TAB has pleasingly opened their earliest ever New Zealand Cup market, with nominations not even taken until August 29 and the fact Ultimate Machete is the $5.50 opening favourite confirms how open this year’s classic looks. Purdon is happy with how Ultimate Machete’s issues which ruined the second half of this season for him have settled down and indicates the $800,000 Cup will suit him better than the four races of an Inter Dominion a month later. With him being set specifically for the race his $5.50 quote makes far more sense than the $6 for Chase Auckland, who is far from guaranteed to be there. Any punter eying the Cup market should be careful though as the bookies haven’t included Soho Tribeca, one of Australia’s best pacers, who has been set for the race and should be viewed as coming. And West Australian trainer Gary Hall confirmed to the Herald he will nominate Inter Dominion runner-up Chicago Bull and rates him a 70-30 chance of coming. If that pair make it to the race they will be among the favourites so until they are included in the market it is very much buyer beware. With so many high profile pacers exported or retired this year one of the few genuine Cup winners still in the hunt for Addington this season is Dream About Me, who is the most forward of the Purdon’s big guns. She pushed Lazarus to a half-neck in the Flying Stakes at Ashburton last season and as a former Auckland Cup winner would only need to hold together to be one of the NZ Cup’s major players. “She has had all sorts of problems with corns but they are good at the moment and she is not too far away from the trials,” said Purdon. “So if we can stay on top of those problems she is right up there with our best chances of winning the Cup this year. “But obviously we don’t have the same firepower as the last couple of years without Lazarus so the race looks a lot more open.” Meanwhile, the stable’s exceptional three-year-old filly Shez All Rock starts her Breeders Crown campaign in an easy non-tote heat at Addington on Friday and should headline a five-strong team for next month’s rich series in Victoria.   Michael Guerin

The pressure is on to find genuine open class pacers for Cup Week and the lead up to the November feature. So it's good news to hear that one of the real up and comers from last season Captain Dolmio is close to racing. Former trainer Matt Brinsdon jogged the horse up for six weeks before he was sent north to John Dunn at Woodlands Beach. “He’s been there near a month. There are no signs of any niggles at this stage,” he said. Last season the Grinfromeartoear gelding won three races including the Summer and Tuapeka Cups. In his last two starts of the season he ran third behind Lazarus and Heaven Rocks in the Superstars Championship. Lazarus’s winning time was 2-16.7 for the 1950 metres a mile rate of 1-52.8. He finished his season off by running second to Heaven Rocks in the Easter Cup which was won in 3-58.7. He then came back for the new season and won a workout and trial in August last year but unfortunately suffered a leg injury and his preparation towards the New Zealand Cup had to be scrapped. “His injury was a lot like bone concussion and shin splints on his hind leg, if you can imagine the top of your bone having a whole lot of pin cracks in it. Once we found the problem we injected the bottom and the top with pain killers. He was as sound as a bell. Never though we could have raced him, he could have ended up shattering the leg so we had to give him four months. But we ended up giving him the best part of eight months. He’s done very well during his time out. He’s strengthened and developed.” Brinsdon thinks Captain Dolmio may be at the workouts in a few weeks and says the aim at this stage is to have him back at the races in the middle of next month.   “John is happy. He’s jumping around so that’s a positive start.” The rising seven year old is raced by the enthusiastic and well travelled Captain Dolmio Syndicate. “She’s been a quiet old time for the syndicate.” The Dolmio Grin at Addington                              The Syndicate has bred from Captain Dolmio’s dam Kates Rock. They have an Art Major colt which is a weanling and the mare is in foal to Always B Miki. Brinsdon hasn’t started jogging his new seasons team which includes an Art Major mare, a Mach Three brother to Phantom Grin ‘that broke in pretty nice’ and an A Rocknroll Dance two year old out of the Pacific Rocket mare Shezza Duchess. “He just needs a bit of time. He’s a big gangly horse so he might be a late three year old or four year old. He paces along nice and wants to run. He had a few issues with steering when I got him back in the cart. He wasn’t playing the game but he’s come right.”    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Addington bosses are on the hunt for Australia’s best pacers as the local open class stocks hit an all-time low for this year’s New Zealand Cup. And a series of factors appear set to play into their hands, with at least one of Australia’s biggest stars all but confirmed to be crossing the Tasman for the Cup and others set to follow. The Cup may be four months away on November 13 but it is already more attractive to Australia’s leading trainers for two very obvious reasons. Firstly with the new Inter Dominion series to have only a A$500,000 final, the $800,000 New Zealand Cup sits alongside the Miracle Mile in February as Australasia’s richest harness race. Add in the $200,000 NZ Free-For-All three days later and the elite pacers can race for $1million, making it the richest pay week in Southern Hemisphere harness racing. And perhaps just as important is who won’t be there, namely two-time NZ Cup hero Lazarus, who has been exported to North America along with Heaven Rocks and Waikiki Beach while Auckland Cup winner Vincent and champion mare The Orange Agent have been retired.  That leaves the New Zealand open class stocks looking the weakest they have been in a decade and while horses like Ultimate Machete won’t be pushovers, Addington racing manager Brian Rabbit admits some Aussie star power will be crucial. “The Cup is always a special race and a special occasion but we do look to have a bit of a shortage of big name locals at the moment,” says Rabbit. “So we will be very keen to get some of the leading Australians across and the early indications are we will. “We had Tiger Tara last season and would love to get him back while Soho Tribeca and Chicago Bull are two others we would really like and Soho Tribeca sounds likely. “With the stakes we have now it has become the richest carnival anywhere in Australasia.” While Aussie speedsters like Field Marshal, Jilliby Kung Fu and Hectorjayjay and almost certainly better suited at home, Rabbit looks set to get his wish with Soho Tribeca, who already has the Cup as his main aim for the remainder of the year, even though the Inter Dominion is in his home state of Victoria a few weeks later. “Everything we are doing at the moment is geared toward the New Zealand Cup,” trainer Michael Stanley told the Herald. “I qualified him from a stand a few weeks ago so we can start in the race and we intend coming for the week and racing in the free-for-all too. “And we will probably have a lead-up race over there as well, maybe somewhere like Ashburton. “We would be mad not to target it. The owner is very keen and its $1million in a week rather than four races in two weeks for a A$500,000 final at the Inters. “We might do both but we don’t have to decide that until after the NZ Cup.” With Tiger Tara a luckless third to Lazarus last season and second the year before he would seem a likely returnee and if you add those to locals like Ultimate Machete, last season’s runner-up Jack’s Legend, Star Galleria, former Auckland Cup winner Dream About Me and Jewels winner Eamon Maguire a potentially intriguing but far more open Cup than recent seasons comes into focus. Nominations for our greatest harness race close on August 29. Meanwhile, Addington could have a new distance in play for Cup week and more importantly for the Harness Jewels pending the outcomes of a trial this month. Starting from this Thursday the premier track will change 1950m mobile races to 1980m for a month-long trial at the behest of the horseman’s association. “It will give them a slightly longer run to the first bend and we are happy to trial it and listen to their feedback,” said Rabbit. “And we will then discuss if the 1950m races we usually hold now become 1980m races and if they do permanently then that will be the distance for the Jewels here next season too.” Michael Guerin

The forgotten challenger to Lazarus's third New Zealand Cup has taken a small step toward making the great race. And while trainer Brian Hughes isn't getting carried away with The Orange Agent's comeback, he says if he gets the glamour mare back to her best he won't be scared to take on the champ. The Orange Agent is on the third injury rehab of her career with a fracture in her cannon bone ending this season before it began but she had the hopples back on for the first time this preparation this week. "It was nothing serious but was good to give her a slow hoppled run and so far so good," says Hughes. "She looks good but very big so she is still a fair while away from racing." Hughes says a successful comeback would still not see The Orange Agent at the races until the middle of winter, when the only lucrative targets would be in Australia. "That might be one option but you would think she would need a race or two here first before throwing her in over there." But if the now six-year-old mare holds together she would ultimately be aimed at the New Zealand Cup, with the great race probably in need of her help. With so many big name pacers being exported this season, genuine group one rivals for Lazarus should he attempt to win his third Cup in November will be hard to find. This season's placegetters, Jack's Legend and Tiger Tara, would be likely along with the emerging Star Galleria and Addington officials would love to get Soho Tribeca to the race but after that horses who could be deemed even mildly threatening to Lazarus's three-peat are scarce. The forgotten challenger to Lazarus's third New Zealand Cup has taken a small step toward making the great race. And while trainer Brian Hughes isn't getting carried away with The Orange Agent's comeback, he says if he gets the glamour mare back to her best he won't be scared to take on the champ. The Orange Agent is on the third injury rehab of her career with a fracture in her cannon bone ending this season before it began but she had the hopples back on for the first time this preparation this week. "It was nothing serious but was good to give her a slow hoppled run and so far so good," says Hughes. "She looks good but very big so she is still a fair while away from racing." Hughes says a successful comeback would still not see The Orange Agent at the races until the middle of winter, when the only lucrative targets would be in Australia. "That might be one option but you would think she would need a race or two here first before throwing her in over there." But if the now six-year-old mare holds together she would ultimately be aimed at the New Zealand Cup, with the great race probably in need of her help. With so many big name pacers being exported this season, genuine group one rivals for Lazarus should he attempt to win his third Cup in November will be hard to find. This season's placegetters, Jack's Legend and Tiger Tara, would be likely along with the emerging Star Galleria and Addington officials would love to get Soho Tribeca to the race but after that horses who could be deemed even mildly threatening to Lazarus's three-peat are scarce. Michael Guerin

With his second successive New Zealand Cup win on Tuesday the raging Inter Dominion favourite Lazarus cruised past Winx notching his 25th harness racing Group and Listed Race win. In fact his record overall is also better than the champion thoroughbred mare. Career Record Lazarus             36 starts           31 wins             2 seconds         3 thirds             0 unplaced Winx                 32 starts           26 wins             3 seconds         0 thirds             3 unplaced Group and Listed Race record Lazarus             28 starts           25 wins             1 second          2 thirds             0 unplaced Winx                 30 starts           24 wins             3 seconds         0 thirds             3 unplaced One of Lazarus’s third placings in a Group One race was his third in the Group One New Zealand Sires Stakes final for 2yo colts and geldings on 15th May 2015. The first four home in that race were Lets Chase The Dream, Motu Premier, Lazarus and Shandale and all four will line up in Perth in the 2017 Inter Dominion Championship next week. Western Australia’s leading fancy for the Inter Dominion in Chicago Bull could only manage ninth place in that elite field while a couple of other current WA horses in Gaz Wannabet and Harry Hoo finished 12th and 13th respectively. Lazarus arrives in Perth on Sunday for his 2017 Inter Dominion campaign. Winx is unlikely to ever arrive in Perth Alan Parker

Money talks. And it talks all languages. Champion pacer Lazarus is no exception to this theory as he became the latest harness racing dual winner of the Gr.1 $800,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup at Addington today (Tuesday). Starting as the shortest priced favourite in the races history, punters couldn't get enough of the handsome five-year-old stallion in lead-up to the biggest event on the New Zealand racing calendar. Even today, on race day, punters queued to back the hottest pacing talent in this part of the world and like most with that compelling pulling power, most if not all, were their today to witness a champion in action. By jump time, Lazarus started at odds of $1.40 – almost unthinkable! But there was no cause for concern, a clean getaway had the Mark Purdon trained and driven superstar in front within 400m before turning the 3200m stand start feature into a procession. As it stood, Lazarus had never been beaten once he led and that record remained intact after racing clear in the home straight to score by 5 3/4 lengths from Jacks Legend while the Australian trained Tiger Tara filled third despite breaking with 800m remaining. His winning time was 3:55.0 – a mile rate of 1:58.1. "The start was important and he made a great go of it today,” Purdon said. “He's a pleasure to train. There's no fuss about him, nothing smart about him, he's just one of the boys in the barn and just a lovely horse.” He added. It was Purdon's fifth Cup success - Il Vicolo (1995/96), Adore Me (2014) while Lazarus has now recorded back to back victories. And just like Il Vicolo, Lazarus recorded a slower time in winning his second Cup compared to his maiden triumph. Lazarus now joins Monkey King, Flashing Red, Just An Excuse, Il Vicolo, Lordship, Highland Fling, Haughty, Lucky Jack, Harold Logan, Peter Bingen, Ahuriri, Reta Peter and Wildwood Junior as dual Cup winners. And given his current invincibility, he looms as a fantastic chance of joining triple winners Terror To Love, False Step and Indianapolis next year. With 31 wins from 36 starts and over $2.6 million in the bank, there's reason to believe the best is still to come from this pacing phenomenon and his record breaking mentor. While the Purdon name is synonymous, Mark has easily become the most celebrated in the Cup while father Roy and brother Barry have four victories. Today, a rare feat was achieved between Mark and Barry; a one/two result with Lazarus defeating Jacks Legend. Back in 1996, the brothers finished first and third with Il Vicolo (Mark) winning while Surprise Package (Barry) filled a minor placing. With Ricky May (7) and Cec Devine (6) the most decorated reinsmen in Cup history, Purdon has both gentlemen firmly in his sights with his tally of five. While the efforts of Lazarus and Purdon should be lauded, the deeds of super sire Bettors Delight shouldn’t go unnoticed either. It was a one-two-three finish for the Cams Card Shark stallion while it was his 4th straight Cup winner. The next leg of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit now heads west, the $1.8 million TABTOUCH Inter Dominion series in Perth starting on November 24. And with two legs of the 2017/18 series locked and loaded, the two pacers equal at the top of the leaderboard with 100 points each are Lennytheshark and Lazarus and now they’re set to square off once again at Gloucester Park. The last time they met, Lennytheshark proved victorious when successful in the Miracle Mile back in February. It also coincides as the last time that Lazarus tasted defeat……nine starts ago! But who will do the talking this time around? Maybe the money will do the talking again? Chris Barsby

Lazarus has won the the harness racing $800,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup in emphatic style once again at Addington Raceway in Christchurch. Lazarus, who won the cup by 10 lengths last year, won easily again, this time by 5-3/4 lengths with enough in the tank for trainer-driver Mark Purdon to give a salute to the crowd before the finish line. "He's a champion," said Purdon, minutes after the win over Jack's Legend and Tiger Tara. Maxim was fourth. Lazarus paid just $1.40 for the win and it was a money back $1 for the place. READ MORE: * Live: NZ Trotting Cup day 2017 * Great clean-up begins after drunken debauchery at Melbourne Cup * Flashback: Kiwi flies to legendary Melbourne Cup win in 1983 * Expensive buy Embellish proves his value with 2000 Guineas win * Gingernuts a 50-50 chance to race again * NZ Cup Day 2017: All set for one of Canterbury's biggest parties ​Purdon, who trains with partner Natalie Rasmussen at Rolleston, controlled the race from soon after the start, though there was chaos there with Ricky May tipped from the cart of Seel The Deal and Lazarus' stablemate Dream About Me had her chances wrecked in the same collision.   GEORGE HEARD/STUFF Lazarus leads the field home once again in the New Zealand Trotting Cup.   Lazarus had the lead after 200m and was never seriously challenged. Purdon urged him to go 400m out and he put a gap on his rivals. It was all too easy. Purdon's brother Barry trained the game runner-up Jack's Legend, while Tiger Tara, now trained in Australia, did extremely well after breaking with about 800m to go, recovering to finish third. Mark Purdon said the key to the race was the start and Lazarus performed brilliantly after some practice at home since his last start.  GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ Mark Purdon has combined with Lazarus to win the New Zealand Trotting Cup for the second year running.   Purdon said he had a look around with 400m to go, and said "let's go", pulling Lazarus' earplugs out and the horse responded. "He's a pleasure to train. There's no fuss about him, nothing smart about him, he's just one of the boys in the barn and just a lovely horse," Purdon told Trackside. Lazarus has now triumphed in his last eight starts and his race record stands at 31 wins from 36 starts, for prizemoney of around $2.6 million. Lazarus' next assignment is the Interdominion series in Perth, where he will tackle his Australian nemesis, Lennytheshark. It starts later this month with the final on December 8. Lazarus The Purdon-Rasmussen combination also had double-up success in the Group I Sires Stakes Final, with Chase Auckland keeping his unbeaten record as he marked himself as the horse of the future with a sizzling fast time. The son of Auckland Reactor paced the 1950m in 2:16.1, slicing 0.4sec of Ultimate Machete's national record last year. He followed out pacemaker King of Swing and Natalie Rasmussen just had to wait until the straight when the run presented itself and Chase Auckland sped home to win from a game King Of Swing by 2-3/4 lengths. "He had every opportunity to do it, it turned out perfectly," Rasmussen said. Chase Auckland The promising trotter Great Things Happen won the Group I Free-For-All for trainer-driver Gavin Smith. Mat Kermeen

Addington harness racing fixed odds movers as at 10:20am Race 1 - Trouble Giero $9.80 - $9.00 is the best backed runner over Breenys Cullen $13 - $10.00 & money is also staring to come now for Izmok $9.00. Lavros Jack $2.90 easily leads multi betting over Izmok & Breenys Cullen.   Race 2 - Major Shard $2.40 - $2.30 is the best backed runner with the largest bet $4,000 at $2.40. Only Major Shard & Conway Beach $4.20 - $3.40 are wanted in multi betting.   Race 3 - Donsmedad $3.30 leads win & multi betting over Alderbeck $4.00 - $3.70.   Race 4 - The Fixer $1.30 hasn't as yet attracted any large bets but judging by the multi support on the horse his price is spot on.    Race 5 - Gupta's Cullen $9.00 - $5.20 is the big mover and has continued to take money from day one of the opening market, he also leads multi betting over the $4.20 favourite Real Torque. Goodlookin Chick is also a big mover $19.00 - $9.00 with money also starting to come now for Bettor Chance $7.00.    Race 6 - Marcoola $6.50 - $4.50 leads win betting with Great Things Happen $2.70 leading multi betting over Ronald J $3.50 & Marcoola.   Race 7 - Spankem $2.70 & stablemate Chase Auckland $2.90 - $2.70 lead multi betting easily. Chase Auckland leads win betting over Pats Delight $15.00 - $14.00.   Race 8 - The Dorchester $1.80 - $1.75 is huge in multi betting and also easily leads win betting over Ashley Locaz $2.45.   Race 9 - Anthem $2.80 - $2.50 has come into the race favourite over stablemate Funatthebeach who has drifted from $2.40 - $3.30. Largest bet on Anthem $2,000 at $2.50.   Race 10 - You don't see favourites dominate a NZ Trotting Cup market like Lazarus $1.30 is doing and it will be a brave punter who backs a runner to beat him but we are starting to see money coming for Heaven Rocks $6.00 - $7.50 & Titan Banner $24.00 - $17.00. Lazrus has attracted one large bet so far $14,000 at $1.30.   Race 11 - Musculus $3.80 - $3.20 has come into the race favourite with Sundee Son drifting from $2.40 - $3.40.   Race 12 - Bare Knuckle $2.40 & stablemate Bettor Trix $4.50 dominate win & multi betting.   In race 2 Semiramide is a big place mover $7.00 - $3.20 with the largest bets $416 at $5.80, $606 at $4.30, $714 at $3.80 & $1,200 at $3.20. Goodlookin Chick $6.00 - $3.20 in race 5 has also attracted strong support. In race 7 American Brave is into $4.20 from the opening odds of $9.00 with the largest bet $2,500 at $9.00.   Top 6 best backed runners in order for multi betting: R10 - Lazarus $1.30  R4 -   The Fixer $1.30 R8 -   The Dorchester $1.75  R9 -   Anthem $2.50  R2 -   Major Shard $2.30  R12 - Bare Knuckle $2.40    Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

MARK: Drives Tuesday -R2 Major Shard-R6 Prince Fearless  R7-Spankem -R9 Funatthebeach-R10 Lazarus-R12 Bettor Trix I am as confident this year about Lazarus in the Cup as I was 12 months ago. That is largely based on that I think he is as good as he was last year.  Not much I can fault about his prep. and this morning's work (2400m in 3.20) is just nice maintenance work for them.  He has done the work and you just look after them for the last week and keep them happy. You can't be getting them ready a week out.  Last year he ran up the straight track for his last workout while this year he ran on the main track. No significance in that just how it worked out. He is a sensible horse and that makes things easier for him.  He is drawn next to Imola who has been a bit unpredictable at times from a stand. There is not really anything you can do to take any measure against this because often if a horse is going to do something wrong there is nothing to indicated it before it actually happens. You have to hope for the best and try and be ready if something happens. You can't predict it.  I think Heaven Rocks  will be the one of ours I am most worried about. He has that brilliance factor that means when he gets it right he can do just about anything. I don't think the distance will blunt his sprinting ability. He is not as reliable as Dream About Me  who is also a strong chance but he has an x factor no doubt about it. She has had a good prep and has improved after every race. We know how good she is especially as a stayer . Piccadilly Princess has gone under the radar a bit but she has done everything right. It is a tough test for her if everyone else does things right but she won't disgrace herself. She deserves her chance. Have Faith In Me  gives Nath a great moment driving in the Cup. Look, he is probably not where he was when he won the Miracle Mile but he has a lot of ability still and if he did it right early could easily be in the money. The stand has been a worry for him.  But he can catch it and if he does he will go a top race. I am not worried about his stamina. The distance is not a worry for him. My first drive is with Major Shard and we have four in that. He is probably the best. His trial seemed good the other day  and really he had no c hance the way things turned out in the higher class race at Auckland. I don't think that is relevant  Because of the draw is lean toward Conway Beach as next best but Shenandoah could easily be as good. Seminaride follows Conway Beach out which could be a help for Nathan.  Prince Fearless ?  Well one of the main reasons for transferring him to Steve Boyd is the water walker because he needs that sort of programme to help him. I have been a little disappointed to be honest. He has just not trotted as well on raceday as he has shown in trials and that is frustrating. He has the ability to do most things as we have seen in the past but it is hard to know how he will go. The Sires Stakes Final will be a really tough race as it always is. Spankem  has a nice draw as it might turn out and he  is a tough and classy racehorse as he has shown.. Still I favour Chase Auckland as our best in the race all things even.  He has gone on getting better and while he has a tricky draw his class will make him hardest of ours to beat if all things are even.  I think David Butcher is the driver with most to think about going into the race from the inside draw.  Things are sure to be fairly brutal early and he would probably feel he has to hand up to the right horse if he is going to hand up at all. The pressure to lead all the way is sure to be huge. If he let Pat's Delight go he in turn would probably give way to Alta Maestro knowing he will hold the lead and if David hands to one of ours it is possible  it would hand up to another of ours who really wanted the front and so kept the trail. Quite a lot of pressure and it is always the case with this race. I rate The Devil's Own next of ours because of the draw but All U Need is Faith is probably good value from that draw because he could end up with the best run. He has been tough in the heats.  Tim is on Ashley Locaz but when I drove him last time I felt he was on the right track.  He would improve further but he has come up well and he can really sprint off a quick pace as he shwoed at the Jewels. Funatthebeach  has that tough draw and its quite tricky because it ends up seven off the front and six off the back . Anthem will have the drop from his draw  and Mach Up is likely to get a cosy run. Delight in Me could get a good trip through as well. I think my drive can still win.  It is a good field without probably a real standout and that draw of Anthem might be tricky for me. Bettor Trix is my last drive. Again a nice field without a real star. I am thinking now that Bettor Trix is better in behind than in front where I thought she went so well  so I will be bearing that in mind. I think she is a very good filly and so is Bare Knuckle who has a trickier draw. There is not much between them.    NATALIE- Drives Tuesday- R2 Conway Beach-R4 TheFixer-R7 Chase Auckland R9 Anthem  R10 Heaven Rocks  R11 Bare Knuckle We have had our moments over the last week but all seems well now going into tomorrow. The horses seemed good this morning and hopefully they stay that way.  Heaven Rocks -can be beat Lazarus ?. It's a question a few are asking. In my view all things being equal he can't but if a little bit of the luck goes his way and not Lazarus's way  I think he can.  He's got to be going forward at or soon after the start because he can't give those top horses a start and want to beat them when they are running the sort of times they will go tomorrow. All I  can say is that I am very happy with where he is at and really it is up to him. If he can get going early he has options, if he can't its going to be an uphill battle especially against Lazarus. He is a headline horse it seems and Laz is the quiet achiever and he won it so easily last year. Dream About Me will be there somewhere , Piccadilly Princess is under the radar but doing well and Have Faith in Me, well it all depends on what he does early on. Chase Auckland is another of my big drives and there is a lot of talk about this race too. They will break the record I am sure so it will be a brutal sort of race.  I am not too worried about his draw really,  I am confident he will get his chance. I have a lot of respect for King of Swing. He has done it at top level and done it out in front and I respect him highly. I think he will give me some options at some stage of the race. My other top rival is Spankem because I have seen how well he has worked this week and how he seems to have peaked at the right time.  When they go hard like they will here you usually find a path for anything going good enough and that is the way I am approaching the race. Conway Beach is a good start for the day from that draw. She can be a bit ordinary in her work but I know she is well and  this is a good race for her. Major Shard is possibly our best but can have is moments and Shenandoah is good enough to win. Semiramide will be behind us and could get a drag into the race and get some.. She is my little roughie for the day. Thefixer  is in the zone and trialling up well. I am very happy with the way he has come up and he has got to be hard the way that field has shaped. Anthem  has a lovely draw. He went out with the top three year olds lasts time and matched the speed so that makes him hard in this field. He is no better than Funatthebeach -they are about on the same level but the draw gives him an advantage. They are probably our best two with the filly drawn a bit rough.  The last race in which I have Bare Knuckle is a tough race and I wouldn't be thinking we had it won at all. If she can run in three I will be happy with her. She has drawn ordinary but I think this will work in her favour. She hasn't had much practice and is still learning and this will be the chance for her to mix it in the field. There are some good sorts in this and with our fillies we are not taking anything for granted.  All Stars Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

The Heaven Rocks roller-coaster may be about to hit a high again at the right time. Although the oddball pacer has been a huge drifter in the market for tomorrow's $800,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington, at least he is going to make the race now. And win, lose or draw tomorrow, a few days later he looks set to be a warm favourite for the rich New Zealand Free-For-All. After a weird few days which started with Heaven Rocks' trainers thinking he might have to be scratched from tomorrow's iconic race, he is now back in the fight and apparently ready to rumble.   The drama started when Heaven Rocks worked poorly by his high standards - he can be a dazzling track worker - on Friday, a disappointment which followed a poor blood report in the middle of last week. Co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen contacted stewards and told them the huge pacer was in doubt for the Cup but blood tests taken on Friday came back Saturday and painted a far brighter picture. Then Heaven Rocks blazed around the All Stars training track yesterday, easily accounting for race rival Have Faith In Me. "He feels far more like it and it is all systems go for the Cup now," said Rasmussen. "It looked like he was coming down with a virus but clearly he is better now." The drama-filled weekend comes after Heaven Rocks's crazy last six weeks, during which he shortened into Cup favouritism after some stunning trials before he appeared to have broken down when racing erratically in his comeback race at Addington on October 6. Although he has improved since with stablemate Lazarus looking faultless, Heaven Rocks has drifted from his market low $2.30 to win the Cup to a nearly backable $8 for tomorrow, with Lazarus now into a historic low $1.25. If the best version of Lazarus turns up, Heaven Rocks might be racing for second tomorrow but a positive performance could see him start a firm favourite for the $260,000 NZ Free-For-All on Friday. Of the Cup runners Lazarus, Have Faith In Me, Dream About Me, Piccadilly Princess and Tiger Tara are all likely to miss Friday's free-for-all as they are scheduled to leave for Australia on Thursday on their way to Perth Inter Dominion carnival. Northern mare Better B Amazed has already been pulled out of the meeting after some flat workouts while Locharburn and Waikiki Beach are scratched from the junior free-for-all tomorrow which could leave Friday's big group one pace headlined by Heaven Rocks and the likes of Jack's Legend, Titan Banner, No Doctor Needed and Maxim. Australian visitor Tiger Tara has been one of the big movers in the Cup market, into third favouritism at $12 and $2 a place after arriving in Christchurch in great shape and thrilling trainer Kevin Pizutto with his fast work on Saturday. "All you can ask to have your horse at his best and that's exactly where Tiger Tara is at," says Pizutto. "He's had a great prep back home, travelled over well and worked really well." Pizzuto, who is stabled at Mitchell Kerr's barn, worked Tiger Tara over 3200m in 4min 15sec. Michael Guerin

Lazarus may kill New Zealand's most iconic race as a betting contest but his value to harness racing can not be underestimated.  The defending champion is a $1.25 favourite to make it back-to-back victories when he contests Tuesday's $800,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington. His price will turn many casual punters off but the bigger picture is the pulling power of a champion is of immeasurable value to the sport. The majority of the 20,000 plus crowd at Addington might only be there for the party but there is no denying champion horses bring crowds to race tracks and people who would not usually watch or care will be drawn in to see a champion.   STU McCORMICK Mark Purdon is confident Lazarus is in the same condition as he was for the 2016 Cup.   A look over the Tasman at the Winx effect will confirm that. The wonder mare, who has won 22 consecutive races, single-handedly sold out Moonee Valley last month. Tickets to see Winx win her third Cox Plate were the hottest sporting ticket in Melbourne. Her reach and exposure extend far further than the racing fraternity. Lazarus, trained at Rolleston by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, is yet to reach Winx levels but if he is back running for a third Cup victory next season it will be a different story. "This is what harness racing needs, whether it's me and Nat (Rasmussen) that have got him or someone else, a horse like this is what racing needs," Purdon said. JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF Lazarus won the 2016 New Zealand Trotting Cup by 10 lengths. Champion pacer Terror To Love was the king of Addington during his three consecutive Cup wins between 2011-13 but not even "the Terror" had the pulling power of Lazarus at the same stage of their careers. Countless champions, such as three time winner False Step, Christian Cullen, Blossom Lady, Lord Module, Cardigan Bay, Johnny Globe, Just An Excuse and Monkey King have also had strong followings but in modern times, as the popularity of racing dwindles, that admiration has been harder to come by.  By Bettor's Delight, the champion sire of harness racing in New Zealand, Lazarus has been a star from the day of his victory on debut.  GETTY IMAGES Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will start four runners in the New Zealand Trotting Cup.   In 35 starts, Lazarus has been victorious 30 times with two seconds and three thirds. He has never failed to return punters a place dividend. The champion two and three-year-old of his crop, by four he was arguably the best pacer in Australasia. In a hugely successful career that saw him bring up 2000 training wins on New Zealand soil last month, Purdon is no stranger to having a good horse on his books. Auckland Reactor, Smolda, Il Vicolo, I Can Doosit, Adore Me, Follow The Stars, Pride Of Petite, the list is only limited to how good your memory is, but arguably none of them has captivated the sporting public like Lazarus. His ownership team of Kevin Riseley, Trevor Casey, Phil and Glenys Kennard pay the bills and collect the cheques but Lazarus is fast becoming the people's horse. And even Purdon, who has never chased the limelight himself, is relishing the horse's profile. "I like it and I'm fully aware of it too," he said. "It's a privilege to have a horse like him." "You do get that buzz because you know most people are there to see him."  But with that comes pressure. "You don't want to let them down," he said. Much like Winx, Lazarus does things off the track that show incredible composure and intelligence.  Around the stables, his relaxed demeanour is more tired old gelding than five-year-old stallion. "He's a very unique for a stallion," Purdon said. Unlike many stallions, there is no drama around other horses, no throwing his front feet around to show who is boss, Lazarus knows he is the best and does need to show off. "When he goes to the track he knows what he's there for. He's very, very professional." he takes nothing out of himself." All traits that show he is likely to become a champion sire when his days of being a champion on the track are done. But there was nothing special that made him stand out from the pack when he first arrived at Purdon and Rasmussen's All Stars stables. "He joined our team as just one of the team, there was certainly nothing that set him a part in the late yearling to the early two-year-old stage," Purdon said. "He certainly had a great head and eye on him and that's one of the first things I do look at. "He ticked all the boxes in other areas like confirmation, scope and things like that. But three years later, Purdon concedes there is something special about Lazarus both on and off the track. And he believes Lazarus is ready to fire on Tuesday. "I'd like to think he's as good going into tomorrow as he was last year." So could he run even better than his record-breaking time of last season? "We probably won't know that until tomorrow," Purdon quipped. New Zealand's richest and most prestigious harness race as seen many contenders throw in the towel when they make a mistake from the standing start but Lazarus is about as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning. "I think punters understand how genuine he is. There's no holding your breath until they've gone 200m or anything like that," Purdon said. From barrier six, Purdon should find the lead easily enough and he holds no fear of trying to win the 3200m race from in front. Meanwhile, second favourite and stablemate of Lazarus, Heaven Rocks, is ready to go in the Cup following a health scare over the weekend. Purdon and Rasmussen held fears he may have been coming down with a virus following a below-par workout at Addington on Friday but the camp is happy he is now 100 per cent fit. "His work on Sunday was back to his old self, Nat was thrilled with him," Purdon said. The Purdon-Rasmussen team have four runners in the race with Dream About Me ($17) and Piccadilly Princess ($81) making up their quartet. BY MAT KERMEEN

Hope not but it could be! Long term plans for champion Lazarus have not been decided but Cup Day tomorrow will be the last time he will be seen at Addington in a long while -and maybe  ever. Nobody is taking any extreme options about his longer term future but when he flies out of Christchurch on Saturday en route to Perth that is the last New Zealand will see of him this season. "He will be doing what Smolda and company did last year" Mark said of the Inter Dominions. "He will fly out of Perth after the Inter Doms but to Melbourne and Sydney for the carnival racing there. There is no point in bringing him back here just to fly back to Australia" "I can't see him racing here again this season. The races are just not there.   After the features over there he will be going for a spell. Hopefully he will be back in the spring but you don't look too far ahead with horses even ones as good as him" Lazarus is poised for a lucrative stud career but that is not the main focus of his syndicate of owners. "We are into racing not breeding. Going to stud is not a priority and we hope he can race on" says syndicate leader Phil Kennard. All Stars Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/  

The Heaven Rock rollercoaster may be about to hit a high again at just the right time.  Because while the oddball pacer has been a huge drifter in the market for tomorrow’s $800,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington, at least he is going to make the race now.  And win, lose or draw tomorrow a few days later he looks set to be a warm favourite for the rich New Zealand Free-For-All.  After a weird few days which started with Heaven Rocks’s trainers thinking he might have to be scratched from tomorrow’s iconic race, he is now back in the fight and apparently ready to rumble.  The drama started when Heaven Rocks worked poorly by his high standards -- he can be a dazzling track worker --- on Friday, a disappointment which followed a poor blood report in the middle of last week.  Co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen contacted stewards and told them the huge pacer was in doubt for the Cup but blood tests taken on Friday came back Saturday and painted a far brighter picture.  Then Heaven Rocks blazed around the All Stars training track yesterday, easily accounting for race rival Have Faith In Me.  “He feels far more like it and it is all systems go for the Cup now,” said Rasmussen. “It looked like he was coming down with a virus but clearly he is better now.” The drama-filled weekend comes after Heaven Rocks’s crazy last six weeks, during which time he shortened into Cup favouritism after some stunning trials before he appeared to have broken down when racing erratically in his comeback race at Addington on October 6.  While he has improved since with stablemate Lazarus looking faultless, Heaven Rocks has drifted from his market low $2.30 to win the Cup to a nearly backable $8 for tomorrow, with Lazarus now into an historic low $1.25.    If the best version of Lazarus turns up, and it usually does, then Heaven Rocks might be racing for second tomorrow but a positive performance could see him start a firm favourite for the $260,000 NZ Free-For-All on Friday.  Of the Cup runners Lazarus, Have Faith In Me, Dream About Me, Piccadilly Princess and Tiger Tara are all likely to miss Friday’s free-for-all as they are scheduled to will Thursday for Australia on their way to Perth Inter Dominion carnival.  Northern mare Better B Amazed has already been pulled out of the meeting after some flat workouts while Locharburn and Waikiki Beach are scratched from the junior free-for-all tomorrow which could leave Friday’s big group one pace headlined by Heaven Rocks and the likes of Jack’s Legend, Titan Banner, No Doctor Needed and Maxim.  Australian visitor Tiger Tara has been one of the big movers in the Cup market, into third favouritism at $12 and $2 a place after arriving in Christchurch in great shape and thrilling trainer Kevin Pizutto with his fast work on Saturday. Michael Guerin

The TAB has opened a Lazarus removed from the 'betting market (option 815)  and Heaven Rocks is the $2.50 favourite in that option.   Heaven Rocks is back on track for the New Zealand Cup after blood tests came back ok after the stable thought he might be coming down with a virus after working a bit flat yesterday.   Early Fixed odds Cup day money as at Saturday 2:30pm.   Race 1 - Breenys Cullen $13.00 - $11.00 is the best backed on the win 'book' over Trouble Giero $9.80 - $9.00. Lavros Jack $2.90 leads multi betting over Trouble Giero. Largest bets $1,000 at $11.00 Breenys Cullen & $1,000 at $9.80 Trouble Giero.   Race 2 - Conway Beach $4.20 - $4.00 is best backed on the win 'book' over Major Shard $2.40 with that runner just leading multi betting over the former runner.   Race 3 - A quiet win 'book' early with Alderback $3.990 leading multi betting over Donsmedad $3.10.   Race 4 - Thefixer is a short priced favourite at $1.30 but that hasn't stopped punters from anchoring him in this race for their multi bets.   Race 5 - Gupta's Cullen $9.20 - $8.00 & Goodlookin Chick $19.00 - $13.00 are the best backed runners early with the former runner just leading multi betting over Real Torque the $3.90 favourite. Largest bets $1,000 at $9.20 Gupta's Cullen & $600 at $19.00 Goodlookin Chick.   Race 6 - Marcoola $6.50 - $4.50 leads win betting over Ronald J $3.20 - $3.40 with the $2.80 favourite Great Things Happen leading multi betting.   Race 7 - American Brave took a $400 bet at $51.00 & is now into $21.00. Spankem $2.40 just leads multi betting over stablemate Chase Auckland $2.90    Race 8 - The Dorchester $1.90 easily leads multi betting over Ashley Lopez $2.30.   Race 9 - Hail Christian $8.00 & Ana Malak $10.00 - $9.00 lead win betting with Antem $2.80 leading multi betting over the stablemate Funatthebeach $2.60.   Race 10 - Lazarus is the shortest priced NZ favourite in modern history & punter's are not prepared to back any other runner to beat him & he is the best backed runner on the win 'book' with 90% of multi bets running through him. Heaven Rocks the 2nd favourite at $7.00 holds just 3% of multi betting on the race which shows the betting domination that the favourite holds on the race. The TAB has opened a Lazarus removed from the 'betting market (option 815)  & Heaven Rocks is the $2.50 favourite.   Race 11 - The Dominator $4.80 is easily the best backed runner on the win 'book' with the $3.50 second favourite Musculus the clear multi leader.   Race 12 - Bettor Trix $4.50 just leads multi betting over the stablemate Bare Knuckle who is the $2.40 favourite. Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

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