Fairytale finale for Purdon
By Michael Guerin
New Zealand’s greatest ever harness racing trainer left on his own, perfect terms at Alexandra Park on Thursday night.
In his last race before Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen take a sabbatical from training they quinealled the $200,000 Woodlands Stud Auckland Cup as brave little mare Amazing Dream grabbed stablemate Spankem late to win the great race.
Fittingly it was Purdon who drove the winner but it was Rasmussen who set up the win as her lung-searing last mile in front on Spankem to keep the attentions of Copy That at bay ultimately won the race for Amazing Dream.
“That is what won me the race,” admitted Purdon.
“The pressure on at the lead made it a staying test and this mare is a great stayer.”
The win was historic as Purdon and Rasmussen, known as the All Stars, cease training from Friday, with the majority of their horses to be taken over by the young stable foreman Hayden Cullen.
Purdon and to a lesser extent Rasmussen will still occasionally drive and it is likely they will return to training in some capacity but the days of the all-conquering All Stars machine look over.
“I am very comfortable with that decision now and so is Nat and to win our last race officially training with a horse owned by Jean Feiss, who has been one of our most supportive owners, is a great way to end this chapter.”
Spankem was enormous in second while Copy That was also huge, with his race becoming so much more difficult when he was crossed at the start.
That saw first Spankem cross to the lead and then hand to Amazing Dream, who in turn handed to Ashley Locaz.
Rasmussen took the opportunity to pull out and re-take and that left Copy That four deep on the inner until driver Maurice McKendry got off and was able to slowly apply pressure, which forced Rasmussen to go faster and then the gaps appeared that eventually let Amazing Dream out.
But it was still a no argument win from just a four-year-old mare with no open class record to speak of and showed tiny signs, only tiny, of her former champion stablemate Adore Me.
Purdon and Rasmussen will wait a week, consult with owners and Cullen and decide now whether they take a team to Australia for Victoria and NSW races in the months ahead.
One who will definitely be heading there is Aladdin, who used the passing lane to win the $200,000 NZBS Harness Million for the All Stars.
He was sold just last week to new South Australian owners in a deal brokered by Peter Blanchard which will ultimately see Aladdin head to Victoria to be trained.
Ironically, he was until last week owned by Amazing Dream’s owner Jean Feiss.
There was plenty to like about the runs of Shan Noble, American Dealer, B D Joe and Luke John to suggest there is plenty of life in this crop once Krug and Its All About Faith return.