All Stars doing all-star things on premier night
By Garrick Knight
The All Stars stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen completed a clean sweep of the pacing Group 1s at the Auckland autumn carnival on Friday night, the wins of Spankem and Sweet On Me forming part of yet another stellar night at the office for the champion trainers.
They also won the Northern Trotting Derby with Enhance Your Calm and trifecta’d the rich Sales Series Final at Addington with juveniles One Change, Smooth Deal and Flying Even Bettor.
Each win had its own story, perhaps the most significant being that Spankem is now the short-priced favourite for both pacer and horse of the year after his $100,000 New Zealand Messenger Championship win.
Added to last week’s Taylor Mile, the Kaikoura Cup, two Inter Dominion heats and of course his Miracle Mile, he has probably got more points on the board than stablemate Thefixer.
He landed another sustained betting shift when winning from the front for Rasmussen, who said post-race that it was just a stroll in the park for the diminutive speedster.
“He got a nice soft lead again and that first lap was pretty kind; I was a bit conscious not to spark him up because he can get a bit keen sometimes and he was nice and relaxed.
“He had a beautiful trip in front and was able to hold them off; I knew he would able to run a pretty slippery four hundred.”
Stablemate Turn It Up came out of the one-one to run a close second while Mach Shard, for the second week in a row, capitalised on a trip in the trail for third.
A few races earlier, Sweet On Me joined both her dam, Adore Me, and grandam, Scuse Me, as Group 1 winners with an easy victory in the $138,000 Sires Stakes Fillies Championship, Purdon in the cart this time.
She started at microscopic odds of $1.20 and never gave her backers any cause for concern, safely holding out stablemate, and her bester last week, Amazing Dream (Rasmussen).
Less enjoyable for punters was the win of Enhance Your Calm, the uber-talented three-year-old square-gaiter repeating his antics from seven days earlier when galloping off the mobile arm in the Northern Trotting Derby.
He settled quickly but was at least 10 lengths detached from the field, giving those who backed him at $1.50 a headache mid-race.
But Purdon didn’t panic and got a drag in to the race before looping to the lead at the mile.
That was ‘all she wrote’, the well-fancied Lotamuscle unable to repeat his heroics from last month’s New Zealand Trotting Derby, when he reeled in Enhance Your Calm in the shadows of the post.
“He felt really strong all the way; I think that last half would have been pretty good,” said Purdon.
It was – 56.4 seconds in fact – and that certainly took any of his opponents out of the equation.
A return home for a season-ending crack at defending his Harness Jewels Ruby crown is next up for the big son of Majestic Son.
“We’ll get him home and ready for the Jewels and then he can go out for a well-earned break.”
Down at Addington, Sam Ottley recorded the richest win of her career when steering One Change home in the $161,000 Sales Series Final.
The nephew of former champion pacer Changeover, and son of Bettor’s Delight, remains unbeaten through three career starts and is now the even-money favourite for the 2YO Emerald at next month’s Harness Jewels.
To underline the unrelenting dominance of Purdon and Rasmussen, the win of Spankem was their 14th pacing Group 1 this season from 16 races, only the Northern Oaks (Best Western) and the 3YO Fillies Final (Belle Of Montana) eluding them.
Last season, they won 20 of 25 pacing Group 1s, and 21 of 25 the season before that (2016-17).
In fact, beginning with Dream About Me’s win in the Nevele R Fillies Series Final at Addington in May of 2016, the stable has won 63 of the past 76 pacing features held in the past three years.