Ultimate Sniper sizzles in Junior FFA

By Jonny Turner

Owners and racegoers looked on in disbelief as Ultimate Sniper produced a jaw-dropping performance to win the Junior Free-For-All on New Zealand Cup day.

The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 4yr-old set a big Addington crowd buzzing with a tough effort that reminded harness fans why he is New Zealand’s reigning champion 3yr-old.

Rasmussen was denied the chance to take the Bettor’s Delight pacer to the front early in the race, when driver Matt Anderson insisted on holding the front with A Bettor Act.

That set Ultimate Sniper a massive task to win – one that co-owner Phil Kennard admitted he thought was impossible during the running 2600m Group 3 feature.

“I wasn’t confident at all, when he was doing all that work.”

“To run 3.06 with a run like that was phenomenal.”

Ultimate Sniper stopped the clock in a sizzling 3-06.4, setting a new race record in the Junior Free-For-All on New Zealand Cup day.

The performance was undoubtedly the best of Ultimate Sniper’s 4yr-old campaign, that has included a derailed New Zealand Cup bid.

Kennard puts the horse bouncing back to his best on the country’s biggest stage down to his conditioning.

The pacer was sent to the paddock for several months after his 3yr-old season was ended early by injury.

Ultimate Sniper made the most of it, returning to work for his 5yr-old campaign far from the sleek athlete that won on Tuesday.

“Today is the first day we have seen his ribs – he just hasn’t been ready,” Kennard said.

“But, when I saw him at the stables yesterday I though this horse is ready.”

Purdon said the All Stars stable would monitor Ultimate Sniper’s recovery before making a decision on whether the horse would start in Friday’s New Zealand Free-For-All.

The master trainer said his first inclination was not to line the 4yr-old up on Friday.

Rasmussen made sure her charge was not going to be unlucky by taking Ultimate Sniper to the parked position.

The leading reinswoman said it was a case of taking advantage of the horse’s drop in class after he had competed in New Zealand Cup lead up races.

“The way he did it - I knew I had to drive him with a fair amount of confidence,” Rasmussen said.

“That [race] was a bit of a class drop from what he has been racing – he has been going good races behind Spankem and Chase Auckland.”

Ultimate Sniper’s withdrawal from the New Zealand Cup and his win on Tuesday has now seen his season evolve in to a transitioning term.

“It was just a year too soon for him for the cup,” Rasmussen said.

“He is a good horse.”

“I really think next year will be his year.”

Rasmussen used contrasting tactics when driving One Change to win the New Zealand Sires Stakes Final.

The All Stars 3yr-old held out stablemates Copy That and One Change in a thrilling finish to the Group 1 feature.

Rasmussen elected to slot One Change in to the trail behind Line Up and driver Anthony Butt early in the race.

The energy she saved there may have given One Change the winning edge to hold out the fast finish of Copy That and driver David Butcher.

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