You wouldn’t have to be very perceptive to know what it meant to Natalie Rasmussen to win the NZ Cup.

It meant the world.

“It was the one on my bucket list I most wanted. You always want to win all the big races and I have just about done that now. This was the the big one missing and it is a great thrill to put it away “

Natalie was always confident Thefixer could be the horse to do that. But there were questions. Yesterday not long after five o’clock those questions were answered. At least for some.

“I didn’t think I had won. I was just hoping to have won. I asked Tim (third) and he said he thought Tiger Tara had won. Then he told me Todd (McCarthy) thought I had won. So I wasn’t sure”

It wasn’t just the drive that made it special for Natalie. She has been a fan of Thefixer from the early days when he surprised a few people, not excluding Mark, when beating Vincent on Cup day two years ago.

“I’ve always had a great faith in him. I knew he needed time to do his best and the owners gave him that time. It has paid off today but we had a bit of luck”

Natalie was not sure what was going to happen in the Cup -what drivers really do ?-but she knew in spite of his lack of experience he had all the other qualificatioins for a Cup winner.

“The false start was typical. It didn’t bother him at all. Those are the sort of horses who make Cup horses. Nothing bothers him and he stays all day”

“My main concern was the work we had to do early. We had to sprint around to the front and Dream About Me was going to be a good one to follow. But it was a close thing. I was just glad it turned out like it did!”

You would never ask Natalie to compare horses. Not something she is in to. And you would never suggest she was behind a Blacks a Fake at Addington. But the thrill she got from the win was obvious.

There was a small problem, one which could put Natalie and Mark on the holiday list next week. She copped a suspension from November 11 to November 30 for undue use of the whip in the NZ Cup -a penalty shared by Todd McCarthy on Tiger Tara who was just fined.

Mark also picked up a similar penalty from his drive on Jesse Duke.

Natalie acknowledged it was an enormous day to win 8 races, an unprecedented achievememt at any meeting never mind the feature meeting of the year.

“We have a great staff to think for that and of course Mark who is just a great trainer and judge of horses.

All Stars has a previous record of seven wins in a day but eight ? Out of this world.

It was of course just as fabulous for the syndicates racing Thefixer and Ultimate Sniper as well as Dennis Dunford co-owner of All U Need is Faith with his son Mark and owner of Living the Faith.

Mark and Natalie each won four races, itself once a record on a Cup day. Mark took the two trots, came with a brilliant late run with Living the Faith, waltzed in with Turn It Up, a horse he selected in Australia as a yearling and ran minor placings in the the Sires Stakes and NZ Cup.

So what is Natalie’s Bucket List ?

Australia (G1 races)

Winter Cup Queensland: Blacks a Fake

Inter Dominion Finals- 3 with Blacks a Fake

Victoria Cup Blacks a Fake

Hunter Cup Blacks a Fake

Miracle Mile; Have Faith In Me

Chariots of Fire : Have Faith In Me

Queensland Pacing Championship” 3 wins with Blacks a Fake

NSW Derby: Waikiki Beach

NSW Oaks: Fight for Glory, Dream About Me

APG Finals: Waikiki Beach, Rosa Mach

Queensland Sires Stakes: Abbey Tiara

Ballarat Cup: Heaven Rocks

Bohemia Crystal Mile: Western Cam, I Am Sam

Ladyship Mile: Adore Me, Piccadilly Princess, Good Lookin Girl

Len Smith Mile: Smolda

NEW ZEALAND (in 7 seasons)

Young Guns Final: Chase the Dream

Jewels 2yo Diamond: Princess Tiffany

Sires Stakes 2yo: More the Better

Sires Stakes Fillies 2yo; Kayla Marie, Elle Mac, Spanish Armada

Jewels 3yo Diamond: Spanish Armada, O Baby

Nevele R Final: Spanish Armada, Elle Mac, O Baby

NZ Oaks: Spanish Armada, Fight for Glory

Great Northern Woodlands Derby: Chase Auckland

Great Northern Pascoe Oaks: Elle Mac

Sires Stakes 3yo Fillies: Elle Mac, Golden Goddess, Spanish Armada

Sires Stakes 3yo: Ultimate Machete, Chase Auckland, Ultimate Sniper

Jewels 4yo Emerald: Heaven Rocks, Eamon Maguire

NZ Messenger: Eamon Maguire

Auckland Cup: Vincent

Easter Cup: Heaven Rocks

NZ Free for All: Ultimate Machete

NZ Cup: Thefixer

Queen of Hearts: Fight for Glory, Partyon*

Great Northern Trotting Derby: Winterfell

(Other “bucket list” features: Ashburton Flying Stakes; Methven Cup (3) Kaikoura Cup (2) 2yo Trotting Stakes

In New Zealand 612 drives; 237 wins 116 seconds, 74 thirds $7.9m

 How did you go love ? Natalie talks to Mark as he heads out for the next drive. Mark doesn’t have to as

How did you go love ? Natalie talks to Mark as he heads out for the next drive. Mark doesn’t have to as


1)Who do you rate as your best drive on the day ?

Kings Landing (R11 5.48)

2)Where is Jesse Duke on the scale of readiness for the Sires Stakes Final. Can he beat Ultimate Sniper ?

I don’t think so. He is working well and he hasn’t done a lot of racing but he has done enough to be ready for this.He worked with Ultimate Sniper today (Sunday) and when the pressure goes on the other horse just showed an edge. So I wouldn’t say he couldn’t win because he could but if its an equal battle on luck he might come up a little bit short.

3) How many wins would be a pass mark for the stable on the day. Do you have a number ?

I think looking at the fields that six wins are possible but five is certainly a pass mark maybe less. They are never as easy to win as they look on paper.

4) Can Winterfell beat a horse like Sundee’s Son ?

Not easy to answer. As I have said before he is a big physical talent but he is not quite there mentally and thats why we didn’t go on for the Dominion. But I was impressed with his work today and if he got away with them and did it right he can probably beat anything in this grade.

5) If you could jump ship and drive a horse from the stable on Tuesday you are not on who would it be ?

Thefixer. He is in such a good place at the moment.

6) Yes but we ran a straw poll among the staff this morning and more than one came out for Cruz Bromac. Can he win a New Zealand Cup?

He could, but he would need a bit in his favour. He is another who worked well this morning. He has thrived over here and I don’t think you could get him any better for a race like this. He has the speed to capitalise on the right run but if he has to work during the race it would be harder for him. Also he is used to Australian racing where when they come out they trained to go hard. You wouldn’t want to be using him in the running if you could avoid it because getting him to relax again midrace could be a challenge. I don’t want to undersell a smart horse but it will depend more on the run than for some we have had over the years.

7) Sicario and Funatthebeach are two runners of interest yet to hit their best form. How do you assess their chances ?

I think Funatthbeach might be one run short. If he had drawn a good marble in the front line I would have said that he would be near enough to be right in the money. I am just concerned that if he has to work from the second line during the race his lack of racing could find him out just this time. Sicario is an interesting runner. Except for maybe two horses, one of them being All U Need is Faith, this is quite a drop in class from where he has been racing. I don’t know he can beat those two on the day but he should be ready for a good race and might offer some value because he is a smart horse.

8) Is there a smokey among the Tuesday team ?

I think A Bettor Act comes into that category. He has worked well since he upset at Addington in the final heat and that was a pretty good effort. On his best day he is very good.

9) How do you feel about the team overall going into the Cup Week ?

Actually very happy. The training has gone really well in the last week and they have all come up to expectations in that regard. We had bad luck with Ultimate Machete but so far I think we go into the week with at least as much confidence as we have had in recent years.

10) Are Cup Days all much the same to you now or do they present different challenges every year ?

Actually quite a lot has changed. Once among the pacers you had the Cup, the Junior Free for All and then another tough C6 or so race all with deep form. Now those sort of races are gone because the numbers aren’t there. Also o with the Rating system horses get into the Cup from lower grades/ratings than used to be the case and that affects those classes. I used to think that you got a horse to C4 and then you began to climb the ladder but that is not the case now. To keep the fields up the standard of entry has eased to what it used to be and you have to plan for that. Btu the basics still apply. Everyone wants to win in Cup week and you have to have your horses at their peak if you want to win. Often they are different types of horses you used to aim at the meeting. You just have to be aware of what is going on with the Ratings etc. and plan accordingly. It is still the biggest day of the season and one we aim strongly at. That hasn’t changed.


It is going to be an exciting week but also a testing one. On Friday we hosted the staff to a night out and then when Mark and I got home we checked out the horses, changing the covers etc in the weather and it was probably 1 am before I got to bed. That is the sort of pressure Cup week brings but it is not all glamour and excitement I can tell you that.

We always face a big day on the Sunday with final workouts and usually a few visiting for the meeting coming outso that will be another challenge.

There has been a little bit of talk about THEFIXER drawing one in the Cup but I think its a great draw. Touch wood he has always been a safe beginner and Tiger Tara drawn in the second row is a help for him too. I drive the race as I see it though you always do your homework to assess what is most likely to happen. I am taking the view that we will have options from that gate and we can go from there.

Is Thefixer really seasoned enough (career starts 16) to handle the Cup ? I think so. Yes, maybe ideally I would have liked him to be at Ashburton and just have another race but in his favour is the horse himself. He is sensible, can sprint and stay and race manners have never been a problem for him. He just does what you ask him and always been a favourite of mine. I think his absences from the track worked in his favour l always thought he was a horse who would benefit from patient handling which he got and he looks ready for a big 3200m to me. His work in at Addington on Friday was really good.

DREAM ABOUT ME is the horse I am most worried about. She has had the perfect prep. she is such a good stayer and she is versatile. She had a lot of bad luck last season but finally it has turned and she is tough as. That could make the difference. CRUZ BROMAC is a different sort of horse. I think Thefixer can outstay him but I would be very nervous if he was sitting on my back coming to the turn. I know from Methven how well he can sprint to them and with a similar run he is a threat.

The New Zealand Cup is one of those races you always list as one you want to win so it really means something for me to win it. That is what I aim to do!

SLINGSHOT is my first drive. We have three in it and they are nearly equal in ability but I feel this horse has really found his way lately and he has the sliding blinds on to sharpen him further. I was impressed with him at Kaikoura. When he started his campaign he was disappointing but looking back I can see reasons for that. He is an improver again and I actually prefer that second row draw. It will give him a chance to settle. I like his chance.

ALL U NEED IS FAITH is next for me. I really like this horse. I think with a bit more seasoning he could have won at Kaikoura. This is a very good race and he might be some value. He is a great doer and he takes more racing than most to hit his peak so he has done nothing wrong this time in for me. It is a tough race and it won’t be easy even to beat our other three but he is good and really well.

ULTIMATE SNIPER’s chance’s are well known and I like the draw. I think the second line can be an advantage in a race like the Sires Stakes where they go so hard. We follow out a nice horse and he should get his chance. He is one of those horses who has more than one string to his bow I am fairly confident in his chances with any sort of luck at all.

Our others won’t be easy to beat. The Moonshadow was flat last week and we were worried about him for a while but he has bounced back and worked well late in the week. A Bettor Act is not an Ultimate Sniper but good enough as we saw in the last heat and Jesse Duke has a nice draw and is a very consistent horse. I don’t think he has been further back than third and I will be keeping a lookout for him.

ANTHEM is up against Turn It Up and Funatthebeach so that won’t be easy from where he is. It is fair to say that he has not quite gone on from his three year old career and that might be because he was kept as a colt. He won’t be one for long after this if he doesn’t show! We have added the sliding blinds and I have to say he worked well at Addington on Friday so he is not out of it. But the other two are tough to beat and Funatthebeach went outstanding at the trials last week. A nice horse.

BETTOR MY DREAMZ has talent and it is whether he has the ringcraft that will count here. He never got into the Sires Heat but that was a qualifying race for him and realistically you couldn’t have expected a lot more at that stage. I will be driving him positively that’s for sure and see if he is good enough. If he is he will win.

If I had the chance to drive another of our team on the day ? TURN IT UP and ASHLEY LOCAZ. I would be more than happy to be driving either especially Turn It Up.

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MARK THURSDAY-CUP “FIRST FOUR”-(and other matters)

Everything was good with the trials horses yesterday and now we will be trialling some at Addington in the morning before the final windup on Sunday.

Putting our four in the Cup in betting order ?

Well I would think I would have DREAM ABOUT ME on top. She has had a perfect preparation and is as good as she has ever been-which is pretty good !

I like the draw for her too. It will give Tim some options. But she can stay and she has speed and covers all the bases really.

THEFIXER would be next. I am just a little bit worried about that one draw. He is a reliable beginner and that should not be a problem but it is whether some from outside can get across him with that outside advantage early.There is a big difference between two and three back on the rails in a race like the Cup. Otherwise he is so consistent and reliable he is obviously a danger to this field.

CRUZ BROMAC would be the third tick in the box. I like the horse and he has really done well. He led in the Cup Trial but he won’t be doing that on Cup day unless there is a lack of options. I think he is better coming from off the pace. I also think he will cover the distance all right but he won’t want to do too much work on the way. He has certainly done well. He would need to get the right run,

EAMON MAGUIRE would be on my stable ticket for fourth, not because of any lack of ability but because he is more of a speed horse than an outright stayer and there would be some worry about getting the trip for him if he has to do any work in the running. If he sits and gets one go at them he is a chance but those sort of run don’t come along that often in the Cup.

I would say the draw has thrown the race wide open. TIGER TARA was sure to run forward if he drew the front line but now from the second row it is going to be a bit more difficult for him and it is a little less predictable as a result. It means there is bound to be some action in middle stages and that adds to the puzzle.

I am not worried about the draw for ULTIMATE SNIPER in the Sires Stakes Final. In fact I think it is good for him. The Sires Stakes is usually/always run at a frantic sort of speed so most horses get their chance. The horse in front of him goes out of the gate and Snip is versatile enough that he gives you more than one option.

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Natalie was more than happy to take out another Methven Cup with Australian pacer, Cruz Bromac on Sunday but also looking toward a very busy week at All Stars.

“He had done well but it was a little bit of a surprise how well he won first up, especially on grass. He scrambled for a moment early while he got used to it and then we got a charmed run. But he did it well”

Natalie won her first race on grass and it was the Methven Cup when Vi Et Animo won in 2014. She won again with Messini two years later in spite of having a dislocated elbow at the time. Natalie managed to disguise the injury somewhat to gain a clearance to drive but spent the next six weeks on the sideline.

Mark said he was pleased with Ultimate Machete.

“He needed a good hitout and he got one today. I was happy with his run but he will improve a lot yet. At this stage the Flying Stakes will be his only other race before the Cup. Cruz Bromac we will keep for Kaikoura.

”Thefixer should be back in the stable in another week after a water walker course. His foot burst out last week so it should be all good from now on. though the Cup might still be a question mark”

It is a case of “horses everywhere” at Addington and Ashburton this weekend as well as four at the trials on Wednesday,

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It was a low key hearing on race fixing charges in the Court on Tuesday and at least I was pleased Raoul Neave has been the judge in this case to date. His summaries  have been well reasoned and he had a compassion for those in court concerning the lack of respect shown by the media that covered the initial police raids.

However it was decided that pleas would not be made until  December 5. There has been a battle to get some of those affected back to race day driving and I hope by the time this has appeared common sense has prevailed. So far there has not been much of it and if the Racing Integrity Unit thinks they have acted in the best  interests of harness racing I would urge them to get a second opinion.

It’s going to be a long road to finality with these cases and I can see bitter feelings toward the RIU at the end of it.

I am naturally not prepared to speculate on the outcome of the Court process but I want to make the point most of these people have given their lives to harness racing and served it with more integrity than they have been shown at times here. We tend to stand back and let things take its course when it does not involve us personally yet  there are, in my opinion, a number of times when people affected should have been treated a lot better than they were, given the outcome.

I hope for once we can come together and pressure the RIU for answers. I expect it will be well into next year before these cases are resolved and this is an occasion when we should stand up and not stand back.

For the betterment of our industry and the young people coming through it is a time for action especially in establishing protocols that will avoid dragging people’s reputations  through the dirt and taking Harness Racing’s credibility with it.

Mark Purdon

MARK SAYS (First Part)

We all know harness racing has been hard hit by the news coming out in the last week or so and I wouldn’t want to go into the ins and outs of all the evidence that has emerged so far. That is for others to decide

However I feel I must comment on some aspects of how the case has been handled.

I think I can say that in that  I have been a victim of some aspects of the media coverage  which I think has been overly sensational and judgmental before any of the evidence had been properly evaluated.

I can’t help noticing that harness racing seems to judged by different standards compared to other sports and businesses in these circumstances. Innocent until proven guilty is the law but you couldn’t say that was the attitude of  some commentators and authorities in connection with this case. Our industry deserves better .

From the  personal viewpoint there were photos of me in the media as soon as the story broke and the property on television news when nobody at All Stars was ever involved in a race fixing inquiry.

Names were being published before any court appearances had been made In my experience other  industries are not treated like that. It seems they have no respect for harness racing.

In my view the media has quite a lot to answer for over these events. They seem to have a double standard when it comes to racing.

I looked at the people involved in court last week on the various charges and thought how well presented all of them were and how most are high achievers who have made something of their lives. They may prove to have done something wrong but they seemed out of place in a courtroom.

I have been in harness racing a long time and  consider it clean.

As in all businesses things happen from time to time. However what some might be sure they see from the stands is not always what is really happening in the race. I believe harness racing deserves more respect for its overall record.

That is why I am also disappointed at the lack of support to date from the code leaders for some of the most successful  people in harness racing who have not yet been found guilty of anything. This treatment does not seem to happen in the thoroughbred code.

I can understand people questioning aspects of our industry and have no problems with those questions being properly answered.

But to see people treated so shabbily before anything has been through the courts of law is extremely disappointing.

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