The twilight Auckland Cup and National Trot Meeting held at Alexandra Park on the 31st December certainly provided an exciting lead-in to the New Year celebrations and firework display that was to come later in the evening.
The first race on the programme was taken out by master trainer Barry Purdon, when the favourite Bounty Lady led and won in fine style for driver Scott Phelan, in a good time of 2:40.7, with Barry’s wife Katrina being the breeder and owner of the 4-year-old mare by Art Major out of Supremacy.
Race 2 was the feature 2-year-old race on the card, the Breckon Farms Young Guns Series (Heat 2) and was to see the first sensation of the day, when hot favourite and impressive winner of Heat 1 of the series two weeks prior, Smooth Deal broke soon after the start, tailing off and losing all chance. Mach Da Vinci led for most of the race and went on for a good win at long odds ($17.10) for trainer Paul Court and driver Joshua Dickie. He is by Art Major out of the now deceased mare Mach’s Love and was bred by Terry McDonald, of Terror To Love fame.
Next on the card was the Pascoes The Jewellers Handicap Trot, which saw another favourite in Oscar Bonavena break at the start and lose considerable ground. Meanwhile Majestic One sped to the front from her 15m handicap and led them a merry chase, at times being up to 15 lengths ahead of the field and was able to hold on to win from an amazing effort put up by Oscar Bonevena when he made up his lost ground and flew home for a huge 2nd placing. The Breckon Farms bred Forget The Price Tag was a good 3rd placing, but some way off the winner Majestic One who was driven by her owner Sailesh Abernethy, for brother and trainer Jay Abernethy. She is an 8-year-old mare by Majestic Son out of Susan.
Race 4, the Crombie Lockwood Mobile Pace, was taken out in good fashion by another favourite Blazen River, who was initially restrained towards the rear before making a move forward to take over the lead with 1100m to run. Our Sequel in running second, provided the quinella for trainer Tony Herlihy, with the winner being driven by stable employee Tony Cameron for owners Mrs LG Halligan, JS Halligan, Suzanne Herlihy (Tony Herlihy’s wife), MR Lockwood and Mrs JA Lockwood. Blazen River is a 3-year-old gelding by Courage Under Fire out of River Belle, who was also trained throughout her career by Tony Herlihy.
The Woodlands Stud Yearling Parade Jan 22 2019 Mobile Pace was Race 5 and saw driver Sailesh Abernethy take out his second win of the day, this time aboard the favourite American Empress, for trainer Jeremy Young, who had won on Auckland Cup Day 2017, 12-months earlier. She is a 5-year-old mare by American Ideal out of Star Empress, who was bred by John Green and is raced by Hazel van Opzeeland, KG Moore, PF Curran and the Zinnycef Syndicate. She won in the very fast time of 2:37.8, a 1:55.4 Mile Rate, by an impressive 4¾ lengths.
Race 6 was the first of three Group 1 races on the programme, the Alabar Sires Stakes 3YO Fillies Championship and was taken out by the second favourite Belle Of Montana, another winner in the colours of trainer Barry Purdon. She started from No.1 on the 2nd Row and enjoyed a nice trail for the first lap, before being posted 3-back on the markers when the favourite Wainui Creek went to the front with about 1100m to go. Into the home straight, driver Zachary Butcher angled Belle Of Montana across the back of the front runners and she powered down the outside to just grab victory by a nose on the line, in the good time of 2:40.6. Belle Of Montana is by Bettor’s Delight out of Lady Cullen, is raced by Montana Park Pty Ltd from Australia and was bred by Croon Bloodstock Ltd.
The next race on the card was Race 7, the Lincoln Farms Bloodstock Mobile Pace, that saw the outstanding 5-time Group 1 winning (four of these at Alexandra Park) mare Elle Mac start from the outside Front Row barrier over 1700m, but that didn’t stop her being sent out favourite for this race. She was restrained at the start by driver Natalie Rasmussen, to go back to the tail of the field, before joining the 3-wide line and remaining there throughout. She was left out with no cover from the 500m point, but ran on turning for home, to finish strongly down the outer and go on for yet another Alexandra Park victory and establish a new NZ All-comers Record for 1700m of 1:57.9, an amazing Mile Rate of 1:51.6. Elle Mac is trained by the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen partnership and is a 4-year-old mare by Bettor’s Delight out of Goodlookinggirl. She was bred by Breckon Farms and is raced by staunch NZ Harness Racing supporter, Australian Jean Feiss. Elle Mac has now had 11 wins for $519,827 in stake earnings and has set four NZ Records during her career to date. Interestingly, Elle Mac has three very close relations being offered for sale by Breckon Farms at the upcoming inaugural NZB Standardbred NZ National Standardbred Yearling Sale, on the 18th February, as Lots 6, 12 and 18.
Race 8 was the Listed PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series Open Final, in which Ultimate Sniper was to line up in Barrier No.1 as a hot favourite to continue his unbeaten record. He went straight to the front and dictated terms to go on for an authorative win, to make it 7-from-7. The Breckon Racing Syndicate part-owned Another Masterpiece was a gallant second after sitting parked for the last 1100m and completed a quinella for the training partnership of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. Ultimate Sniper was driven by Natalie and is a 3-year-old colt by Bettor’s Delight out of Reality Check, bred by Mrs KJ Walsh and GP Walsh and is owned by Glenys and Philip Kennard (Breckon Farms Syndicate Members), GR Douglas, Phil Creighton, Margaret Creighton and Kevin Riseley.
The next on the card was the second Group 1 on the day, the Sims Pacific Metals 2018 National Trot, which was to see the favourite Marcoola somewhat surprisingly beaten after breaking in the score-up and losing about 4 lengths and the second favourite Temporale breaking twice in the running. Massive Metro was the actual winner, after getting away well, then racing along a distant third behind the two front-runners, before spurting forward at the 1700m mark to take up the lead. Marcoola then came around to sit parked at the bell, before running on to the lead as they headed into the back for the final time, running down the back in a quick 28.2 quarter. Marcoola looked to have the race at his mercy as they swung for home, but Todd Mitchell urged Massive Metro on in the passing lane and he went on to master the favourite and win impressively on his merits by 2 lengths, creating a new NZ Record in the process of 3:21.1 for the mobile 2700m. Massive Metro is trained by the partnership of Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett and is a 5-year-old gelding by Muscle Mass out of Paris Metro, who interestingly won the National Trot herself in 2004. He was bred by WD Kirkwood, MA Dyer, JR Melrose, KG Jones and RJ Hicks and is owned by Nancy Hackett (Bernie’s mother), GL Read, PG Argus and DI Donaldson.
Race 10 was to see the third Group 1 race of the programme and the feature race of the day, the Trillian Trust 2018 Auckland Cup, to be run over the extreme distance of 3200m. It was harness racing’s new up-and-coming star Turn It Up who prevailed at just his ninth race start; a truly remarkable achievement and one that is not likely to be repeated for an awful long time, if ever. Turn It Up, just a 4-year-old, had to be good to win too, as he was a little slow away from the standing start and had to race 3-wide early, before pressing on to take up the lead after about 700m. From there driver Mark Purdon dictated terms and literally turned it up over the final 800m in a sizzling 54.3 seconds, giving little chance to those that followed. Star Galleria got closest in running a brave 2nd placing, but was still 1½ lengths away at the finish. The Mark Purdon / Natalie Rasmussen trained Turn It Up was another favourite winner on the day and was their third for the day. He is by Courage Under Fire out of the USA-bred mare O Narutac Bella, who was bred in Australia by BC Edward and Mrs VA Edward and is now owned in New Zealand by Jim and Ann Gibbs, Lee Pilcher and Mark Purdon. The win was tinged with sadness, as Turn It Up was originally purchased for long-time All Stars Stable owner Neil Pilcher who sadly passed away earlier in the year and was not there to see this potential champion win his first major race. Of note is that Breckon Farms is offering a full-brother to runner-up Star Galleria at the upcoming Yearling Sales; he is Lot 101, an Art Major colt out of Starlitnight, with a star-studded pedigree.
Race 11 was the last on the card and was the Auckland Co-Op Taxis 300 3000 Handicap Trot, taken out by Angus Burga for trainer / driver Brent Mangos. He made a safe beginning from the Front Line of the standing start and settled in third position on the markers, but then as several runners went into a break heading into the back the first time, Brent took the initiative and sped to the front. He ran along in front and out of trouble, holding off all challenges to go on for a good win. Angus Burga is a 7-year-old gelding by Angus Hall out of Our Sunny Whiz and was bred by RA Southey, RM Southey, KA Southey and Mrs SD Lean and is raced by two of the breeders in RM Southey and Mrs SD Lean.
That was to conclude a great days harness racing, that was viewed by a good crowd oncourse, so we offer our CONGRATULATIONS to all winners on the day and also to all their connections !!!