Rasmussen to drive Lazarus

By Michael Guerin

Champion trainer Mark Purdon has sacked himself from the hot seat for the greatest challenge of Lazarus’s career.

But he says handing the reins to training partner Natalie Rasmussen gives the wonder pacer his best chance to turn around a horror build up to Saturday night’s A$750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle.

Lazarus struggled bravely into third in his Mile prelude last Saturday, clearly feeling the effects of a virus Purdon thought was out of his system.

He then drew the outside of the front line for Saturday’s great race, a starting position from where no horse has run a place in the Miracle Mile since it moved to Menangle.

Those factors combined confirmed what a massive task Lazarus faces so Purdon wants to concentrate on honing the superstar to his peak and let Rasmussen worry about the driving.

“I think if I am concentrating on training him 100 per cent and getting him as good as I can have him them then there is a danger I might only drive him at 85 per cent,” admits Purdon.

“By having Nat drive him I can do my job training the team and she can do her job driving them.

“And she is a very good driver, not just at Menangle but on any track.”While the pair train together Purdon has driven in almost all his 44 career starts, including his wins in the Inter Dominion, two New Zealand Cups, Hunter Cup and Victoria Cup.

But the Purdon in the stables working, Rasmussen in the sulky combo has been a powerful one-two punch at Menangle before.

Rasmussen partnered the then stable star Have Faith In Me when he nosed out Lennytheshark in the Miracle Mile two years ago in an Australasian record 1:47.5 and she actually owns the two fastest winning mile times down under as she was also in the sulky when Adore Me paced 1:47.7 winning the Ladyship Mile three years ago.

She will also drive the stable’s best chances in both the Ladyship Mile and NSW Derby.

With the driving out his plate Purdon can now concentrate on getting Lazarus back to his best, or as close as he can get him.

He was surprised when what he thought was a slight bug last week, and Lazarus was twice passed clear to race by vets, troubled Lazarus so much in his prelude defeat.

“We had his blood taken last week and had him scoped but I think at this level it exposed how even being the smallest bit off your game you can get beaten,” says Purdon.

“But there have been some real positives since the weekend.

“He seems well in himself and his blood report we got back today (Tuesday) was definitely better.

“We had rain overnight on Monday which will help too because it settles the dust, we not many of ours are used to, or like.

“But I won’t really have a good idea of where he is at until I work him on Thursday morning.

“The way he looks, his blood and the way he is handling himself I think I can get him back to something like his peak for Saturday.

 “But it has been a long summer, he has done a lot of traveling and now had this little setback.

“So I will be doing my best. But will he be at the same level as he was when he won the Inter Dominion in Perth?
 “I hope so, but it is hard to be certain. Put it this way, I wouldn’t give you a money-back guarantee.”

 Those words alone, coupled with almost certainly copping the toughest run in a race that has six group-one Menangle winners against him, means Lazarus could start closer to $3.50 than his opening NZ TAB quote of $2.20 come Saturday night.