Lazarus wins Horse of the Year

NZ HARNESS NEWS

The former connections of Lazarus got together in his honour one last time in Auckland on Saturday night at the annual New Zealand Harness Racing Awards.

The champion pacer, now racing in North America for new owners after a sizeable sale in April, predictably collected the night’s premier equine award, Horse of the Year, as well as Pacer of the Year and 5YO+ Pacer of the Year.

Phil Kennard, who along with wife Glenys selected him as a yearling in early 2014, was emotional when addressing the crowd in likely his final Lazarus-related obligation.

He expects Lazarus to feature in the same awards dinner in “seven or eight years’ time”, his reasoning being that the son of Bettor’s Delight would be New Zealand’s champion pacing sire by then.

Lazarus’ former co-trainer, Mark Purdon, was the final speaker of the night and talked glowingly of he and partner Natalie Rasmussen’s recently-departed stable star.

“Lazarus is a just a unique horse; he was always a gentleman to work with.

“Just a beautiful horse. He would never kick anyone, he would never bite anyone.

“You’d put him in the cart, you’d walk out the barn and he’d almost talk to you and say ‘what are we doing this morning boss?”

“He was a champion.

“I always think if he was a human he would be the most humble person. That was just him. He was a pleasure to be around, he was a privilege to train and I just love him.

“So, I hope he comes back here, he gets support and he turns out like his father – a champion stallion.”

Purdon, Rasmussen, their family and owners were the big winners on the night, taking out 16 awards in total, plus Lazarus’ dam Bethany won the pacing broodmare of the year.

Speeding Spur’s fairytale return from injury was capped off with the Trotter of the Year nod, his Rowe Cup and NZ Trotting Championship wins enough earn the majority vote.

And the premier human award, the Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing, went to husband-and-wife team Steve and Anne Phillips.

The now Waikato-based couple have been involved in volunteer work within the industry for over 30 years, including amateur driving, Kidz Kartz, cadets and education as well as being breeders, owners and trainers.

Blair Orange gave an emotive speech in receiving the Driver of the Year Award, while Matt Anderson (Leading Junior), Nathan Purdon (UDR Junior), Purdon and Rasmussen (trainers), the Kennards (owners), Braeden and Caroline Whitelock (Breeders) and Ellie Barron (Cadet) won the other human awards.

Influential producer Ten To One was awarded the Trotting Broodmare of the Year title after leaving three Group 1 winners, including the 4YO Trotting Colt or Gelding Award winner, Habibi Inta.

Their owner, Julie Maghzal, spoke about her passion for breeding and her desire to honour the bloodlines developed by her late father.

Other trotting winners were Cheerful (2YO Filly), Enhance Your Calm (2YO Colt or Gelding), Luby Lou (3YO Filly), Winterfell (3YO Colt or Gelding), Bonnie Highlander (4YO Mare) and Destiny Jones (5YO & Older Mare).

Other pacing winners were Princess Tiffany (2YO Filly), Another Masterpiece (2YO Colt or Gelding), Shez All Rock (3YO Filly), Chase Auckland (3YO Colt or Gelding), Utmost Delight (4YO Mare), Ultimate Machete (4YO Entire or Gelding) and Jo’s Dream (5YO & Older Mare).

Majestic Son and Bettor’s Delight were acknowledged for their dominant seasons as sires, winning the pries for trotting and pacing respectively while Sheree Tomlinson and her family were the winners of the public-elect Moment of the Year for Amaretto Sun’s upset win in the Dominion Handicap.

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