Heaven Rocks is growing up
- 06 September 2017
By Michael Guerin
The nightmare for rival harness racing trainers is becoming a reality --- pacing giant Heaven Rocks is growing up.
And the early market for the New Zealand Trotting Cup is starting to reflect it.
The dual Harness Jewels winner has moved into $3.60 second favouritism for New Zealand’s greatest harness race at Addington on November 14, with defending champion and stablemate Lazarus drifting slightly to $2.20.
The pair have only clashed once, when Lazarus was too professional for Heaven Rocks in a free-for-all at Addington last season but the latter has produced so many freakish performances trainer Mark Purdon says there is little between the pair’s motors.
But Heaven Rocks has always had manners issues on raceday, from missing away to pulling hard and hanging he is rarely a comfortable watch for his supporters.
Purdon though is cautiously optimistic those days may be behind the five-year-old mammoth.
“He seems like he has improved a lot this time in and I think he has grown up,” said Purdon.
“Nat (Rasmussen, co-trainer) has been doing a lot of the work with him since we got back from Canada and he hasn’t done a thing wrong.
“Usually he has been that way at home and sometimes a bit tricky at the races but I think you might see a better horse this season.”
While stablemates and fellow NZ Cup contenders Have Faith In Me and Dream About Me trial again today and will race at Addington next week, Lazarus and Heaven Rocks could trial as early as next week before racing the last week of September of early October.
Because of his impeccable manners and 10-length demolition job last season Lazarus deserves Cup favouritism until Heaven Rocks beats him fair and square but you get the feeling Purdon wouldn’t be stunned if that happened this season.
Lazarus is not only the New Zealand Cup favourite but also top pick for the A$1.1 Inter Dominion in Perth in December after key rival Hectorjayjay was ruled out for the rest of the season with a suspensory tear.
But unless Heaven Rocks did something special at Cup time and Lazarus hit a snag, Heaven Rocks won’t be heading to the Inters.
“I think that style of racing might undo some of the good work we have done with him so he will almost certainly stay here for the Auckland Cup and his big Aussie aim will be the Miracle Mile,” says Purdon.
Last season’s best three-year-old Vincent will also be set for the Auckland Cup, dodging the New Zealand Cup before heading into age group races like the Chariots of Fire in the second half of the season.
At this stage Purdon doesn’t plan to have a rep in the Victoria Cup in its new October 14 time slot.