Best bet: Winterfell (Addington, R4, No.12): Thrown in even off 30m and as long as he tries he should win.
Each way: Triple Eight (Addington R9, No.9): Has been racing well at the highest level all season. If they go hard and he gets on three wide train might finish over the top.
Down in grade: On The Cards (Alex Park, R7, No.8): Drops back from free-for-all company and gets a decent catch driver in Tony Herlihy. Has options even from wide draw.
By Michael Guerin
Champion horseman Mark Purdon and a host of other harness racing stars have been sidelined by Covid-19 protocols which will stop them from driving tonight.
But none of them are suspected of having the coronavirus or even having been in contact with anybody who has, with Harness Racing New Zealand erring on the side of caution.
Purdon, leading drivers John Dunn and Zac Butcher and several other big names in the harness racing industry only returned from Sydney between 10 and 12 days ago after they competed at the Miracle Mile meeting.
The Government announced on Wednesday people who had returned from overseas in the last 14 days should self isolate for 14 days from when they returned and while that was not made a strict regulation, HRNZ said it would not put other industry participants are risk.
So all harness racing participants, including trainers and even amateur drivers, have been banned from attending any race meetings until they have been back in the country for 14 days without any sign of coronavirus symptons.
“I was a bit surprised but we have to do the right thing so I will be not going to the races and staying away from the stables until Monday,” says Purdon.
“But I am lucky I have great staff and Natalie (partner) to take care of things.”
Purdon rolls out some of the stable’s bigger guns for the Addington premier meeting which will be run in front of industry participants only tonight, with the same happening at Alexandra Park.
While the world seems to be going crazy and we all have more important things to think about, racing is one of the few live sports still on and for punters who feel like a distraction the Purdon/Rasmussen team is the obvious one to follow tonight.
But that does come with a couple of warnings.
Rasmussen does the driving on both this season’s group one winners One Change (R7, No.1) and Winterfell (R4, No.12) and says they are the ones to beat in two of tonight’s best races.
“I was thrilled with One Change in the Derby up north and that showed he can be driven tough so I think I have to use the draw tonight,” says Rasmussen.
“While there is a bit of speed on the front line I think it is important to stay in front of Copy That so that is what I will be trying to do.”
The pair look clearly our top two three-year-olds boys, having had the colours lowered in differing circumstances by filly Amazing Dream in the Derby two weeks ago.
One Change was very tough that night and while Copy That got held up he didn’t flash to the line like the horse who has dominated the December three-year-old races.
There is very little between the pair but with the ace draw One Change is the bet tonight, with the unbeaten Heroes Square adding a new factor to the field and Bad To The Bone looks a great place option as he could be following the favourite throughout.
Winterfell’s opening $1.70 price in the four and five-year-old trot seems fair for an Inter Dominion champion who also beat Oscar Bonavena and co in the National Trot.
He faces a 30m handicap but not a big field so the real question with him isn’t whether he should win but whether he will put in genuinely enough to win.
Rasmussen thinks the answer is yes.
“He has been good at the trials and quite safe, even though he ca be funny left-handed,” she offers.
But the word of warning horses from Rasmussen are the stable’s two-year-olds and Another Masterpiece in the Superstars.
“In the two-year-old race First Class can win but I don’t think he can lead and win because that would put Krug on his back and he would outsprint him.
“But I will be going forward on Delightful Dude so our pair might even end up lead and trail. But Krug might just be a little too forward for ours anyway.”
Another Masterpiece goes into the Superstars with recent wins at both Addington and Menangle but Rasmussen is worried by the draw and says she could be three wide for half the race.
“He can win but it won’t be easy. I think Triple Eight is just as good a chance as him.” With the latter paying $5.50 on opening he looks one of the better each way bets of the night.