All Stars dominate on Inter Dominion Final night
By Michael Guerin
The Inter Dominion became the Inter Domination as New Zealand’s greatest ever harness stable put on a show at Alexandra Park last night.
The All Stars, the aptly-named training operation of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, won both the $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final with hot favourite Ultimate Sniper and the $150,000 Trotting Final with Winterfell as they unleashed the full force of their stable on harness racing’s biggest stage.
Not only did they take home the two Holy Grails but won five of the support races, including another of the group ones in the Peter Breckon Memorial with Amazing Dream.
In all they contested eight races last night and won seven, Copy That denying them a clean sweep by winning the Alabar Classic for the three-year-old.
But while Ultimate Sniper and Winterfell did the job for punters they were anything but an easy watch as both hard to work harder than those who took the short odds would have liked.
Ultimate Sniper was expected to find the front in the IRT Pacing Final but after the Barry Purdon trio showed superior gate speed Ultimate Sniper was left back in the field and had to move to sit parked with a lap to go.
He mastered leader A G’s White Socks at the top of the straight and then held out trailer Mach Shard and the booming late finish of Thefixer to complete a faultless series.
All this from a horse who was allowed to miss the New Zealand Cup just a month ago and who the stable had initial fears about how he would handle the Alexandra Park right-handed track.
“He was out on his feet that last 50m but he kept going like the good horses do,” said Rasmussen after driving her fifth Inter Dominion final winner, having also trained Blacks A Fake to win four before she joined Mark Purdon in partnership.
Purdon took the reins behind Winterfell in the Trotting Final and as expert a job as he did the winning of the race may have been the hands-on training he has done with the former problem child of the open class trotting ranks since he came north for this series three weeks ago.
Winterfell gave punters some nervous moments when he was crossed early and then when Purdon asked him to work around Majestic Man he took some fancy steps.
Once balanced up he got away with an easy lap but copped pressure after from Tough Monarch and then Massive Metro, who headed him at the top of the straight before Winterfell fought back.
Even after all that he still had to hold out Majestic Man up the passing lane, with the latter throwing away his chance to win by refusing to go down to the passing lane.
But as last night showed, getting to the All Stars horses is one thing, getting past them is quite another.