Winterfell prevails in nerve-wracking Grand Final win
By Jonny Turner
Champion trainer-driver Mark Purdon admitted Winterfell gave him one of his most nerve-wracking big race drives when winning the Interdominion Trotting Final on Saturday night.
The 5yr-old raced like he was desperate to add to Purdon’s already illustrious record in Australasia’s greatest test of trotting stamina when going roughly around the Alexandra Park bends and threatening to gallop, before producing seamless strides to win.
Winterfell was so dicey in his trotting action Purdon had to let third place-getter Massive Metro head his horse before the home turn, when the All Stars trotter still had more to offer.
Purdon admitted if he did not put his magic hands that have won helped him drive six prior Inter Dominions winners to work, Winterfell would have blown to pieces.
“I was very nervous.”
“He just didn’t handle the corners - particularly the last corner - I just had to nurse him to keep him trotting.”
“He was probably a neck behind Massive Metro on the home bend.”
“I am sure if I had tried to go with Massive Metro he would have galloped.”
Once balanced in the straight, Winterfell fought bravely for Purdon, holding off a late dive from a wayward Majestic Man by half a neck.
The victory notched Purdon’s eighth as a trainer and training partner Natalie Rasmussen’s fifth to confirm their status as Interdominion king and queen.
The genius of the two All Stars trainers took Winterfell from the naughty corner to national hero on Saturday night.
The Trevor Casey bred and owned 5yr-old disgraced himself when galloping out of the Ashburton Trotters Flying Mile and the New Zealand Trotting Free For All before he set the Interdominions alight with two crushing heat wins and his hard fought final victory.
The prior headaches the trotter caused his trainers were all forgotten when Winterfell etched his name into Australasian harness racing history.
“He is off the hook now,” Purdon said.
“He is much happier this way round, that was the start of it and I think and he just got more confident as the series went on.”
Winterfell did what the Casey-owned Africa could not at Alexandra Park in 1999.
She was beaten in to second by Special Force in the Interdominion Trotting final.
Casey not only completed Africa’s unfinished business, he add the trotting victory to the title Lazarus won him in 2017 to bag complete set of Interdominion titles.
She was beaten in to second by Special Force in the Interdominion Trotting final before Casey sold her to American interests.
Casey not only completed Africa’s unfinished business; he added a trotting victory to the title Lazarus won him in 2017 to bag complete set of Interdominion titles.
“To win an Inter Dominion final after I ran two seconds 20 years ago, with Africa, to come back here and win it, it’s very special,” Casey said.
The team behind runner-up Majestic Man were left wondering what could have been when the 5yr-old ran waywardly in the home turn, before launching a big finish when the race was effectively over.
Trainer Phil Williamson said his trotter hung out when keen to get run his son, Brad, who drove the horse, was able to angle him in to the passing lane.
Majestic Metro recovered well enough to reel in Massive Metro, who fought on for third after putting Winterfell under pressure on the home turn.