Auckland Cup Night - Live Blog

Welcome to Harness Racing New Zealand’s live blog of Auckland Cup night 2015 at Alexandra Park.

Make this page your one stop shop for all the action from throughout the night as we bring you up to date happenings from the course as well as reviewing all the major happenings from the fantastic night of racing ahead.

Tonight’s Trillian Trust Auckland Cup is shaping up as quite the intriguing affair and could play a pivotal role in deciding who will claim the coveted title of Harness Horse of the Year at the annual awards ceremony at the end of the season.

A win for either glamour mare, Adore Me or the brilliant Christen Me would just about give them the necessary qualifications to secure the title and both look capable of winning tonight – which makes things all the more interesting.

Tonight’s secondary feature the Woodlands Stud Northern Derby is dominated by horses from New Zealand’s leading stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen who will put a sulky on five horses in the race including the raging hot favourite – Follow The Stars who was an emphatic winner of last week’s Northern Derby Prelude.

The remaining nine races promise some mouth-watering racing as is always the case on a premier race night.

So sit back, relax and enjoy what is one of harness racing’s biggest nights of the year. 


5:21pm: If you haven't checked it out already make sure you have a read of our special edition of Harnessed News. It's filled with everything you will need to know ahead of tonight's racing. 

You can find it here:




Race 1


Winner: Delightful Offer – Trainer: Barry Purdon. Driver: Zac Butcher.

Owners: Mrs Katrina Purdon, Solid Gold Standardbreds, Mrs C Nausbaum, Clear View Racing No 5 Syndicate and E J Edwards.

Delightful Offer’s racing days in New Zealand may be numbered.

The Bettor’s Delight gelding is set to be trialled within the next week to an Australian interest and Zac Butcher is confident the speedy pacer will do a good job if that is to be his future.

“He’s a great wee horse,’’ Butcher said.

“Unfortunately he’s just a level below the really good ones here, but he will do a real good job in Australia if he gets the chance.

“I thought he would be pretty hard to beat tonight, his run last week was pretty good.’’

Punters who had backed the Barry Purdon trained runner had a few nervous moments going down the back when the leader Halston Bromac stopped in front of them, but Butcher was  able to extricate himself from the fence and Delightful Offer was too quick up the lane.

“It might have been a different story if there was a three wide line.

“We could have been in a bit of trouble then.’’

Miss Daisy who was forced to sit parked throughout the race fought on bravely after surging to the lead at the 400 metre mark while Can’t Explain It ran on well for third. 




Race 2

Winner: Barry – Trainer: Ken Barron – Owner: Blair Orange

Owners: goHarness Buy Race & Sell Syndicate

Barry is just the horse Noel Kennard was after.

The prominent syndicator was on the lookout for a horse  his group of owners could race and have a bit of fun with before potentially on selling before looking for the next project.

In the son of Pegasus Spur they had the perfect acquisition.

Tonight he repaid their faith with a premier night win – capping off a consistent run of form in recent weeks since joining the Ken Barron stable.

“He just gets out and does the job,’’ Blair Orange said.

“He showed a bit of determination tonight, he really wanted to get to the line.’’

Dropping back in grade despite having run placings in his last four starts, Barry was handicapped to win the race and a very good drive from Orange ensured he did.

Trapped parked early, Orange never panicked and just allowed his horse to take his time before they received cover with a lap left to run.

Angled clear at the top of the straight he proved too strong for a game Charming Lavra who led throughout and Yagunnakissmeornot who made the mid-race move.

Orange said it was likely that Barry would remain in the North Island for a few more starts before the option of selling him to Australia is explored by his connections. 




Race 3

Winner: Chase The Dream – Trainers: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen – Driver Natalie Rasmussen

Owner: Mrs Jean Feiss

He’s got more tricks up his sleeve than your average jester, but boy Chase The Dream is good.

He would want to be too though, because had it not been for his undeniable talent then Natalie Rasmussen probably would have lost patience with him a long time ago.

“He’s a little rat bag,’’ Rasmussen said.

“I thought he was going to tip me out in the birdcage just then.

“He’s pretty lucky he has a bit of ability.’’

 A bit of ability might be an understatement, because Chase The Dream has heaps of it.

Unbeaten in three career runs the showy little colt was sent surging forward by Rasmussen after only a couple of hundred metres to find the front.

 “I tried to ease him back into get some cover but he just didn’t feel all that safe, so once he balanced up I decided to send him forward.

“I knew he would be hard to beat – there isn’t much between him and Lazarus, they are both very good two-year-olds.’’

A big bonus for the Purdon and Rasmussen team with the success was that owner, Jean Feiss had travelled over from Australia to witness her horse win.

“She hasn’t come to see them race a lot, but she’s spent a lot of money on the industry so it’s great that she can be here to enjoy a big win with one of her horses.’’

Lazarus, the stablemate of the winner, was a brave second after burning to the lead early before taking a trail.

He looked likely coming off the back, but he wasn’t able to pull the leader back.

Code Black turned in a very good performance to finish in third after enjoying a one out one back run throughout the 1700 metre event. 




Race 4

Winner: Strike The Gold – Trainer: Ray Green – Driver: Simon Lawson

Owners: Lincoln Farms Ltd, D Cotterill, Mrs A Cotterill, G Cotterill

Ray Green isn’t quite sure what the future holds for Strike The Gold.

The three-year-old colt managed to win his fourth race on Auckland Cup night after a casual as you like drive from Simon Lawson, but being just below the elite three-year-olds makes him a hard horse to place in the future.

Green’s not worrying about that too much for now though, he’s just happy he managed to pick up another win with the son of Bettor’s Delight.

“We haven’t had a lot of luck when it comes to barrier draws with him,’’ Green said.

“So it was nice to finally be able to get a good one and use it.

“He’s been racing ok, but just not getting the luck.

“From that draw tonight he should have probably won.’’

Lawson led easily with Strike The Gold from the inside barrier draw and was allowed to dictate his own terms throughout the race with no real pressure.

At the top of the straight he looked like he has the field at his mercy, but 100 metres shy of the post it was a different story.

“He went to pull up on me,’’ Lawson said.

“Thankfully he picked himself up and managed to hold on.

“I was pretty confident he could go close when we drew well.

“He certainly appreciated not having to chase the really good ones.’’

The progressive Alta Leroy produced the performance of the race outside the winner.

After working around the field with a lap to run the Stephen Doody trained pacer looked gone on the bend but managed to pick himself back up to fight hard and finish second – beating race favourite Aliante in the process. 





Race 5

Winner: Dream About Me – Trainer: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen – Driver: Tim Williams

Owners: C J Roberts, Mrs J L Roberts, P G Kenny, Mrs M L Kenny

Like the proverbial machine, Charlie Roberts’ breed just keeps on producing quality winners.

The latest, Dream About Me, looks every bit a good horse and the arrogance of which she won the Delightful Lady Classic is proof of that.

With the same flair and down-right arrogance that most of her relatives show every time they step on the track – the speedy wee filly looks to have the world at her feet.

She made a Group Two field of fillies look second rate as she dashed away to win her third race in as many starts – even waiting half way down the straight for her opposition.

“She’s still really dumb and learning what it’s all about,’’ Tim Williams said.

“But it’s all there, she just wants to pace and be a racehorse.’’

There were a few nervous moments early on however when the daughter of Bettor’s Delight wanted to fight her pole and got a little rank and Williams had to take a hold of her.

But once settled she breezed to the front and never looked back – pacing the 1700 metres in under 2:03.

Williams was all praise for the filly, but was also quick to point out his appreciation to Purdon for allowing him to retain the drive.

“I never thought for a minute I’d be driving her this week, so I am really grateful for the opportunity.’’

Roberts, who has enjoyed a stunning night already with all five winners coming from stallions from Woodlands Stud, had extra reason to celebrate the win with his wife, June in on the ownership of the full-sister to Christen Me.

It is believed that Dream About Me is the first horse she has officially owned.

The official margin was finalised at five lengths with Gamma Lady running home well for second with Poppy Maguire boosting trifectas and first four dividends with her $11 place price for finishing third.





Race 6

Winner: Have Faith In Me – Trainer: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen – Driver: Tim Williams

Owner: D M Dunford, M D Dunford

All week they’ve told Tim Williams he wouldn’t hold up from barrier one in the Derby with Have Faith In Me and all week Williams has been quietly confident he would.

Even his boss, Mark Purdon, was surprised to see the Bettor’s Delight colt there when he got across the field from his outside of the front line barrier draw with Follow The Stars.

His prediction proved to be the correct one. And ultimately it won him a Group One as he was able to angle off the back of his highly-favoured stable mate and run him down in the $250,000 feature.

“I thought he would, it was just a case of doing enough to hold up until we got to the first bend,’’ Williams said.  

“When we came off the back straight he was travelling awesome, and I thought to myself he would be hard to beat.’’

With one cold shot, Have Faith In Me was able to run Follow The Stars down and claim the fifth win of his career but for a fleeting moment it looked as though Purdon was going to fight back.

“I thought we were going to go straight past him, but he really kept kicking like only a good horse would.’’

Williams said the ability to be able to hold up from the one wouldn’t have been possible a few months ago, but with more racing Have Faith In Me is continuing to mature.

“Every time he steps out onto the track he is a better racehorse.

“It’s always just been a time thing, he’s no longer flighty and getting all hyped up.’’

With a Sires’ Stakes and Sales Series victory already next to his name, Have Faith In Me’s name can almost already be imprinted on the three-year-old horse of the year trophy.

Only a Derby and Jewels victory to Follow The Stars would throw a spanner in the works, but it seems unlikely.

The reigning two-year-old was great after working to the lead from his wide draw and Purdon was proud of his effort, but another Derby went begging.

Hughie Green ran on strongly from three back the fence to finish third with Art Union the run of the race in fourth after getting shuffled back after being a handy position early on. 



Race 7

Winner: Mum’s Pride – Trainer: James Stormont – Driver: James Stormont

Owner: F R Weaver

Chat with James Stormont, even just for a minute, and you’ll quickly learn that Mum’s Pride is just a bit better than a good horse.

In fact the Pukekohe horseman has known since day one that the Monarchy gelding had that little something that only the good horses ever have.

“I knew the first time I took him to the workouts and he reeled off a half in quicker than 58 seconds that he was good,’’ Stormont said following the four-year-old’s win in the Greenlane Cup.

“And he’s just got better and better, we are going to have some fun with him next year.’’

A winner of six of his 9 career starts, Mum’s Pride looked every bit an open class trotter in the making and Stormont is going to give him every chance to get there with putting a whole heap of pressure on him.

“We are in no rush, and for that reason I don’t think we will head down to Christchurch.

“He’s only about 80 per cent tonight, he hasn’t had a race since New Years Eve.

“We will probably just work towards the Jewels – tonight’s race has been our main aim.’’

Away safely from the stand start, Stormont found the front and never looked back although the pressure was piled on inside the final lap when Kincaslough found parked and refused to let Prime Power get past her.

That should have left Mum’s Pride a sitting duck, instead he kicked clear at the top of the straight and put the race to bed.

Prime Power was massive in defeat when running second after his torrid run while Saratoga fought bravely from the trail to finish second. 





Race 8

Winner: Christen Me – Trainer: Cran Dalgety – Driver: Dexter Dunn

Owners: C J Roberts & V L Purdon

Dexter Dunn just enjoyed being able to drive Christen Me cold for once.

Forever the dominant figure in his career to date, the Cran Dalgety trained pacer has been forced through favouritism to be on the speed during his career – but the Auckland Cup offered up a different scenario and Dunn was keen to try it out.

“I didn’t go in with any set sort of plan, I just thought I’d see how it panned out.

“It was nice to be able to drive him quiet for a change, he had no idea what was going on.’’

While a New Zealand record pace unfolded in front of him, Dunn bided his time and then at the 400 metre mark he could wait no more and let Christen Me have his head.

The result was the Christian Cullen gelding surging around the field and running into contention.  

“He was bolting coming off the back, and I had to go when I did.

“He came to the end of it late though, I was pretty confident we would win until the last 20 metres.’’

The reason for Dunn’s concern was Adore Me.

After working into the race she tracked beautifully on the back of Smolda until the turn.

Although clearly headed her quality shone through as she made ground on Christen Me inside the final 100 metres to run him close.

Ohoka Punter, who was inconvenienced coming off the back straight by a tiring Elios ran home strongly for third.

The pacers stopped the clock in 3.13.87 which is a new national record eclipsing the previous mark held by Tintin In America’s 3.15.8.

The win should just about secure Christen Me the Horse of the Year title over Adore Me with a New Zealand Free-For-All, Miracle Mile and Victoria Cup already next to his name.

And for Dunn it’s just the continuation of a stellar week. 




Race 9

Winner: KD Hall – Trainer: Tim Vince – Driver: Brent Mangos

Owners: T R Vince & Miss S L Wigg

A $23 price tag might have reflected an upset victory for KD Hall, but when you break down his recent form the win probably shouldn’t have been too greater surprise.

The Tim Vince trained trotter made full use of a quiet run four back on the markers and snuck along the passing lane to knock a few better credentialed runners.

Brent Mangos said that while he might have been giving away a bit of class to some of his rivals the son of Quite Easy has been in good form since joining the Vince stable.

“His runs have been pretty good, he’s done a great job since he arrived up here.

“We got a little bit of luck on the home bend and that helped our cause.

“I was four back the fence and the horse in front of me pushed off then the one in front of him galloped so there was plenty of room.

“He still had to be good to win it though.

“It was a good performance.’’

After beginning his career with Murray Edmonds in Canterbury, KD Hall has gone on a march of form since becoming domiciled at Kumeu.

He’s now won three of his 21 starts and placed on a further seven while the $10,500 he picked up for winning took his stakes to close to $33,000.

Punters who had smashed Eyre I Come into favouritism were cheering half way down when he looked the winner but his run came to an end late and he was left to settle for second while I Got Rhythm emerged late to finished third.  




Race 10

Winner: Start Dreaming – Trainer: Barry Purdon – Driver: Zac Butcher

Owners: Studholme Bloodstock Limited & M B Jefferies

From his quiet little corner in the stabling block at Alexandra Park, watching on a TV that is smaller than a shoebox, Barry Purdon was quite impressed with what Start Dreaming’s performance to win the penultimate race of Auckland Cup night.

But the master horseman knows his job is far from over and that there is plenty of improvement left in his latest find.

And a trip to Christchurch might just sort that.

Purdon thought so much of the filly by American Ideal that he nominated her for the New Zealand Oaks even before she had been to the races.

“She’s impressed me from day one,’’ he said.

“But I would like to see her just calm down a bit, she could cost herself a big race one day by doing something silly.

“She is getting better though, she looked like she relaxed out there nicely for Zac tonight and won with a bit of authority.

“It’s never easy for a filly to take on the older horses either.’’

Following her second to The Orange Agent in last week’s Northern Oaks, every punter wanted a slice of the filly and Butcher made sure they didn’t disappoint by dominating from the top.

The race was handed to him on a platter however with more than one horse having a good look at him inside the final lap, but the class of Start Dreaming shone through in the end as she dashed away at the top of the straight to win by a big margin.

Lusty Mac, who enjoyed a great trail throughout ran a solid second while Bettor B Amazed finished third.  




Race 11

Winner: Wesley Silcox – Trainer: Robert Dunn – Driver: John Dunn

Owners: G M Stoddart, K F Schmack, R K McCutcheon & S R Leadley

After a night at the office where nothing seemed to quite go right, Robert Dunn found the perfect way to close Auckland Cup night.

A stable quinella with two of the rising stars of his stable, Wesley Silcox and No Doctor Needed went some way to making up for a night of tricky draws and bad luck with the rest of his team.

“It’s a nice way to end the night,’’ Dunn said.

“They are both very nice progressive horses who I think will end up going a long way.’’

Dunn said the intention was to sit down tomorrow and discuss future plans with both horses but an attack on the Taylor Mile and New Zealand Messenger was likely.

“We need to sit down and sort out where we want to go from here, Wesley Silcox will stay up here definitely but we just have to see with No Doctor Needed.’’

The win carried and extra bonus for Wesley Silcox who was on money bags heading into the race and picked up an extra $5,250 dollar on top of the $10,500 stake.

He has now won seven of his 11 career starts and earned close to $60,000 along the way.

No Doctor Needed was very good after looking the winner half way down the straight while Te Kawau fought bravely for third after working to the lead and reeling off some slick closing sectionals.