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Team All Stars tick the right boxes

By Matt Markham - Twitter: @MattMarkham07

It wasn’t quite the All Stars domination we have become accustomed to on Premier race nights, but Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen still walked away from Addington as happy campers.

Our leading trainers picked up three winners, and each performance should have a positive kickback for racing at harness headquarters over the next few weeks.

Class three-year-old Have Faith In Me went a long way to dispelling any remaining questions over whether or not he is the top dog of the three-year-old pacing ranks with his effort to hold off Follow The Stars in the Flying Stakes, despite sitting parked.

King Denny confirmed he is the most definitely the next big thing in the trotting ranks with his powerful display in the 4 & 5-year-old Trotting Championships – offering a taste of what he might be able to serve up to Stent and co. in next week’s Group One NZ Trotting Championships.

And old stable favourite, Smolda, bounced back into the winners circle with a dominant display in his assignment, underlining he is on the way back to being somewhere near his former self in the process.

Add in good performances from Willow, Hug The Wind, Border Control and Isaiah and all is well at the All Stars.

Purdon was particularly impressed with King Denny who made his task even harder by being slow away from the stand start.

“It’s a good effort for him to win considering how much of a start he gave them,’’ Purdon said.

“It left him a little vulnerable, but he’s got a massive future this horse – he’s such a tradesman.’’

Next week’s New Zealand Derby looks even more like a two-horse race now after another demoralising battle between Have Faith In Me and Follow The Stars in the Flying Stakes.

This time it was Follow The Stars who had the drop of his stable mate but despite looking likely half way down, he was unable to reel in Have Faith In Me as he went to the line a narrow, but convincing winner just seven days out from the Derby.

“I thought they were both fantastic,’’ Purdon said.

“With a view to next week it was the perfect hit out for them both.

“I thought I was going to get Tim (Tim Williams) half way down but to the other horse’s credit he really dug deep.’’

King Denny’s win was the 24th black type victory for the All Stars stable for the season, almost a third of their 97 victories for the season thus far.

The night’s efforts took the stables stake earnings for the season past $2,500,000 and leaves them on track to surpass Purdon’s best ever stakes effort of $3,400,000 which he set when in partnership with Grant Payne.