Winterfell off 55 in comeback race

By Michael Guerin

Inter Dominion champion Winterfell is going to have to produce something special to maintain his outstanding Alexandra Park record tomorrow night. Because the surprise winter addition to the northern trotting ranks faces a mammoth 55 metre handicap in his comeback race.

Winterfell hasn’t raced since March 20 but has been sent north by trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen because he prefers right-handed racing.

That was evident over the summer when he not only won the Inter Dominion Final but beat Oscar Bonavena in the National Trot, those being two of his six wins from seven starts at Alexandra Park.

He headlines a Purdon-Rasmussen assault on the north that could last for months as they have also sent some talented juveniles north to break up their huge crop of babies and they will be joined by others as some of the rich juvenile races that weren’t run because of lock down this season are scheduled for Alexandra Park in the spring.

As much as he loves Alexandra Park, Winterfell will be trying something few horses have had success at this century by trying to win off a 55m handicap tomorrow.

Horses winning off huge handicaps used to be relatively common, with Cardigan Bay’s Auckland Cup win off 78 yards behind one of Alexandra Park’s
most famous victories.

In recent years the likes of Speeding Spur, Pretty Majestic and a few others have managed to win off 50m but few are asked to start off 55m behind and even less win.

While there may have been others in minor races over the last 20 years the last horse to do it consistently was Natural Glow, who won twice off 55m handicaps in 2000.

Winterfell will be aided by only having seven rivals and he will only be giving the full 55m to three off the front line, one of who is his three-year-old filly stablemate Tailored Elegance.

But it is still a huge ask and a tough proposition for TAB bookmakers to price up because Purdon-Rasmussen horses, especially ones as good as Winterfell, often dominate markets but he is also fresh up against mainly race hardened rivals.

Tomorrow's meeting sees stakes at Alexandra Park start to edge back up, with the maiden races up from $8500 to $9500 and more good news around stakes are expected in the next week with Alexandra Park potentially heading back to something like its pre-Covid stake levels for most meetings.

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