Rasmussen back as top pacers return to Addington
By Michael Guerin
The open class pacing scene awakens from its winter slumber at Addington tonight and it also sees the return of one of the greats.
The National Handicap hosts only a small field after two scratchings but in Anything Goes and Aardie’s Express it boasts two of the more exciting open class newcomers as well as a proven Group 1 winner in Allamericanlover.
Aardie’s Express went a huge race before blowing out late in her first start after a 10-month break last time out and should be significantly improved but she will need to be because standing 10m in front of her at the start tonight will be Anything Goes.
The latter looked a Cups horse in waiting when he won his first start for the all-powerful Mark and Nathan Purdon stable back in May and Nathan says punters shouldn’t be worried by a moderate fifth at the Addington trials last week.
“I was happy with him, we weren’t after a hard run and he came his last 2400m in 3:0 and you don’t really need then going much quicker than that,” says Purdon.
“Yes, he will improve because he is only 90 per cent for this week but I wouldn’t be surprised if he won.”
Nathan plays a far bigger role in the All Stars stable now with his father Mark still heavily involved but also training a few thoroughbreds and happy to take a back seat from much of the driving.
So while the stable will still be the major force in New Zealand’s biggest pacing races it is under-going operational changes and one of those is the involvement of champion driver Natalie Rasmussen.
Rasmussen has the greatest big-race record of any female driver or jockey in racing history, albeit in the smaller pool of Australasian harness racing, but her skills levels are unquestionable.
She drives a lot less these days and was not a day-to-day part of the All Stars team over the winter but that involvement is likely to ramp up now, with the US-based owners of Anything Goes asking for her to partner the gelding tonight.
“It is great having Nat back driving and I am hoping she wants to drive a lot more over the spring and summer because she is a special talent,” says Nathan.
Just who triumphs out of the two favourites tonight could come down to the start and driver’s intent thereafter, with either of them hard to run down should they be able to reach the front.
Earlier in the night Rasmussen will also partner Major Hot (R4, No.7) for the stable and Purdon says if he is within three lengths of the leaders at the 400m he should win.