Having been sent out an odds-on $1.90 favourite for the richest pacing race in the world, New Zealand Champion Lazarus duly obliged last Friday night, the 8th December, in the Group 1 $1,100,000 TABtouch Inter Dominion Grand Final.
The prestigious race was run at Gloucester Park, in Perth, for the final time in their three-round Inter Dominion Series spanning the last three years.
Co-trainer/driver Mark Purdon had Lazarus away well at the start, but soon eased off the hot early speed to take a sit in the one-one initially, as ex-pat Kiwi Tiger Tara sped to the lead as expected. With three laps of the tight Gloucester Park circuit to run, 2015 champion Lennytheshark came forward to sit parked, posting Lazarus 3-back in the running line. Then down the back the first time, as they completed a lap of the course, Mark made his move, sprinting forward with Lazarus to take up the parked position.
Lazarus was to remain outside the leader for the remainder of the race, with the pressure intensifying over the last 1600m. Even though Lazarus was forced to sit parked, Mark was firmly in control of the race, with one of his main rivals Chicago Bull locked away in the trail. With a lap-to-go Have Faith In Me came forward 3-wide and the tempo picked up as they ran down the back straight for the final time and Lazarus moved up to be within a head of Tiger Tara.
The third quarter of the last mile was covered in a quick 27.4 seconds and the race was on in earnest. As they rounded the final turn and into the home straight, Mark looked right, then left, sizing up where his opposition were and then let Lazarus down to run home strongly for a very dominant win., giving a big salute as they crossed the line.
For the record, the winning time was 3.34.5 (Mile Rate 1.57.6), with the last 800m completed in 54.6 and the 400m in 27.2 seconds. The winning margin was 4.1m, with Chicago Bull running second, and a further 1.6m back to Tiger Tara in third placing.
This represented a trifecta for the NZ Breeding industry, with all three horses having been bred in New Zealand.
This win has elevated Lazarus to be the undisputed champion of Australasian harness racing and also provided Mark Purdon with back-to-back wins in the Inter Dominion Grand Final after winning last year’s event with Smolda. Mark has now won 6 Inter Dominion Finals, three for the pacers and three for the trotters. His Pacing Grand Final winners have been Mark Hanover, Smolda and Lazarus, while his Trotting Grand Final victories were with Pride Of Petite and I Can Doosit twice.
Of course I Can Doosit was bred by Breckon Bloodstock Ltd and raced by the Breckon Racing Syndicate and Lazarus is raced by Glenys & Philip Kennard, Trevor Casey (who are all members of Breckon Farms Syndicates) and Kevin Riseley.
This sixth Inter Dominion Final win means that Mark Purdon has surpassed the legendary Brian Hancock as the most successful driver in Inter Dominion history. Brian Hancock won five Inter Dominion Grand Finals, with Our Sir Vancelot three times, Weona Warrior and Koala King, but Mark’s tally has now overhauled this.
With the win, Lazarus has become the highest stake earning progeny of his champion sire Bettor’s Delight and fashioned an amazing record of 40 starts, for 33 wins, 4 seconds, 3 thirds (never out of the money) and stake earnings of $3,317,139.
Of course, Lazarus is a five-year-old stallion, so standing at stud will certainly be the next step for him, once he has completed his stellar racing career.
It’s expected that Lazarus will remain in Western Australia and contest the Group 1 $300,000 Fremantle Cup, on the 12th January 2018 and the Group 1 $450,000 WA Pacing Cup, on the 19th January 2018, both at Gloucester Park, before heading back to Victoria, to contest the Group 1 $500,000 A G Hunter Cup, on the 3rd February 2018, at Melton and the NSW for the Group 1 $750,000 Miracle Mile, on the 24th February 2018, at Menangle. So, it is unlikely that Lazarus will race again in New Zealand this season, but all going to plan he could be back to defend his NZ Trotting Cup title in November next season, in an attempt to become just the fourth horse to win ‘The Cup’ three times, as his connections have indicated they get more fun out of racing Lazarus, so if he stays healthy and holds his form, they intend to continue racing him.
Mark Purdon also completed a race-to-race Group 1 double, when in the very next race after the Inter Dominion Grand Final, the Group 1 $200,000 Retravision Golden Nugget, he produced another hot favourite in Ultimate Machete to win. Ultimate Machete is also raced by Glenys & Philip Kennard, together with Gavin Douglas, Kevin Riseley and Phil & Margaret Creighton.
This made it three Group 1 wins in 21 days for Ultimate Machete, as he easily won the prestigious 4-year-old race. Mark said, “Once he was in front he was right, but it was a bit hairy early,” referring to an incident for which he subsequently received a 26-day suspension, which means he will be back in time to drive Lazarus when he next races, but will miss several major drives over the Auckland Cup Carnival. Mark has now announced that he is to appeal the severity of his suspension.
In another coup for the NZ-breeding industry, Kiwi-bred and owned mare Ideal Alice won the Group 1 $125,000 Westral Mares Classic earlier on the programme. She is bred and owned by Auckland’s Phil Cook and was an upset winner, over the other Mark Purdon runner on the night Piccadilly Princess, who was desperately unlucky in the race for the second year in a row. This win took Ideal Alice’s career record to 20 wins, 11 seconds, 9 thirds, for $400,999 and a best Mile Rate of 1.53.4 and she is now in-foal and will soon be retired to return to New Zealand.
The Group 2 $35,000 TABtouch Inter Dominion Consolation was also taken out by a NZ-bred, The Bucket List, bred by Bruce Carter Bloodstock Ltd and Ross Johnson, with this win taking his record to 20 wins, 24 seconds, 10 thirds, for $361,500.
The last word goes to Mark Purdon, who said of Lazarus, “He is a champion and he had to be tonight, too. He was just super. He is the best horse I have ever trained” … and he has trained a few pretty good ones !!!