All Stars considering sending team North
By Michael Guerin
Northern harness racing’s field sizes could benefit from the glut of talent the All Stars will bring back into work on Tuesday.
Because champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen are considering basing a team of 12 horses in Auckland from August in what will be a welcome addition to field sizes there.
Like most horse trainers around the country the All Stars will return to work on Tuesday as we revert to Covid-19 alert level 3 and expect to have around 60 horses in their property by next week.
“The lockdown has felt like it has gone pretty quickly and there have been some parts of it, actually having a break, that Nat and I have enjoyed,” says Purdon.
“But it will be good to get back to work.” The stable will be starting from scratch for the new campaign so will not have any horses racing for the remainder of the season when harness racing returns on May 29.
“We are looking at having a lot of horses ready to trial in August and plenty of them kicking off in September, which is a bit earlier than usual.”
And because they will have so many horses in the same grades Purdon and Rasmussen are keen to send a team of around 12 horses north to be based in Pukekohe.
“Rather than have them all race each other here we are definitely thinking about sending a dozen up north to split them up,” says Purdon.
“We would probably send them a month or so before they race so they would be there by August and then can race up there in September and October.” That would allow some to return home for the NZ Cup carnival, or earlier if needed, and a northern base also gives the stable chance to target heats of races like the Sires’ Stakes in both islands.
“We are going to have a lot of horses turning three who have ability and haven’t won races yet because we missed the back end of this season.
“So we are keen to split them and make the most of their opportunities.”
That will be music to the ears of northern harness racing bosses and not only add horse numbers but punter interest to meetings at Alexandra Park and Cambridge, particularly when those tracks race on different nights from Addington.
Some of the stable’s big guns return this week, horses like Oscar Bonavena and Enhance Your Calm, Self Assured and the injury-plagued Turn It Up.
Spankem is in water walker rehab in the north and is expected back in July but Inter Dominion hero Ultimate Sniper is going to remain in the paddock until October.
“We thought we might get him back sooner but the latest advice its to leave him out for longer so he definitely won’t be seen back at the track until next year.
“And Chase Auckland has had an operation after his injury in Sydney so he will be a fair while away too.”
So what does a returning to training at the All Stars look like?
“We have all our protocols in place and are ready to go on that front,” explains Mark.
“But for the next month the older horses will only be jogging. The only horses with the hopples on will be the young ones we are educating.”