Winterfell star of the show ahead of Grand Final night
ALEXANDRA PARK, GRAND FINAL NIGHT
- $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final (Group One)
- $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Final (Group One)
- $100,000 Queen Of Hearts (Group One)
- $100,000 Peter Breckon Memorial (Group One)
- $50,000 Alabar Classic (Group Two)
- $40,000 Lincoln Farms Interdom Classic
- 25,000 What The Hill Open Trot
By Michael Guerin
It was a perfect morning from the All Stars least perfect horse.
And it was all you needed to see if you want to back Winterfell to win the $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Final on Saturday night.
On a morning when trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen were left beaming after the private workouts of many of their superstars at Pukekohe, it was Winterfell who was the star of the show.
And it was some show.
Not many stables in the history of harness racing could roll a team that includes the first and second favourites for the $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final, with Cruz Bromac and Ultimate Sniper hitting the line together after the latter trailed until they sprinted up the straight at the end of 2400m.
Both look spot on, Cruz Bromac the more natural track worker, Ultimate Sniper wearing far more gear, in a muck of sweat but pacing fluently on the tightish, flat Pukekohe track.
The conveyor belt of class didn’t stop there, with Thefixer sharp as he came from last to brush up alongside Another Masterpiece and Self Assured also over 2400m, the latter pair looking where they need to be for their support races at Alexandra Park on Saturday.
Other Grand Final contenders Chase Auckland and Ashley Locaz will have their final workouts today, with new driver John Dunn to partner the latter for the first time.
And before the Inter pacers strutted their stuff, the stable flexed some serious newcomer to the carnival muscle in Northern Trot Derby winner Enhance Your Calm and New Zealand’s most exciting trotter Oscar Bonavena, with little Oscar sitting behind his far bigger stablemate and picking him up in the last 200m.
It was all slick stuff, horses deliberately hitting the line together, not a step out of place, no hanging or heads tossed in the air. Professional, daunting.
“It was a really, really good morning,” said Mark Purdon.
“We were happy with all of them so things are very much on target for Saturday.” But while there was a phenomenal amount of elite horse power on display the eyecatcher was Winterfell.
He started this Interdom series the problem child of the open class trotting ranks, having finished 104-lengths last at his previous start, beaten 33 lengths when sixth of eight the start before.
Remarkably for a horse who finished his three-year-old season looking a potential champion he has won only four of his next 14 leading into this series, finishing unplaced in six of them. They are rare numbers for an All Stars Group One player.
The sort of numbers that might see a less talented horse ostracised to another stable. Or another country.
But something has clicked since Winterfell arrived north.
The Winterfell that Purdon has been so happy with at home is finally accompanying him to the races.
He was still wayward winning on night one, was taught how to settle in the field when it became apparent he couldn’t win on night two and looked back to his outstanding best winning his final round heat in national record time.
That improvement curve continued all the way to yesterday when he worked with leading three-year-old pacers One Change (Sires’ Stakes winner) and Flying Even Bettor.
Winterfell was bombproof trailing the galloping pacemaker whereas for several starts in the last 12 months he would have wanted to join in the galloping fun.
He looked big, strong, trotting squarely but more importantly he looked a racehorse, no gawking, swerving or looking for excuses.
He looked like an Inter Dominion Trotting Final winner in waiting.
“He has gone from strength to strength up here,” says Purdon.
“He still did a few little things wrong on night one but he has been perfect since.
“He went a record last Friday and I am sure he can go faster again this week and I’d like to be in front.”
Winterfell can probably afford to get crossed early and still be handed the lead because of the respect he has regained during this series.
With yesterday’s faultless trackwork display another stamp in his passport out of Crazy Town, it is going to take something special to beat Winterfell on Saturday night.