By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
The blue army of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s stable will begin its northern assault at Alexandra Park on Wednesday, but Purdon’s brother-in-law Tony Herlihy will be out to lead the northern resistance.
The South Auckland horseman will line-up five runners at the Auckland track and he is hoping to finish the season in winning fashion.
Inter Dominion Trotting Champion Winterfell will lead the charge for the Purdon-Rasmussen team when he contests the Lonestar Alexandra Park Now Open Handicap Trot (2700m) where he will be met by Herlihy’s in-form trotter Kenny’s Dream.
The Group Three performer has placed in her two starts this preparation off a 45m handicap, and while Herlihy said she will face a stiffer task on Wednesday, he is confident of a good showing from the rising six-year-old.
“The fields are getting a bit stronger and 40m is hard enough for her,” Herlihy said.
“She is always a chance of getting a bit of money because she is such a good beginner and races pretty honestly.
“She has had a couple of nice runs so far with a bit of luck from those back rows, so hopefully we can get it once more.”
Earlier in the card LL Cool J will be looking to make it three wins on-end for Herlihy in the Shane ‘Interterestrial’ Primrose Mobile Pace (2200m), however, he will meet a small but select field which includes Group One performer Copy That.
“It’s a big step up for him,” Herlihy said. “There are only five in it, so he is just going to have a run around.
“There are a couple in there who are just better than him, but he is pretty honest and is racing well.”
Stablemate Russley Rush has been in consistent form this preparation, placing in all four starts, and junior driver Taitlyn Hanara will be aiming to get that elusive win this campaign in the Phil Whitcombe 50+ Years A Legend Mobile Pace (2200m).
“He gets another awkward draw (8) in a junior drivers race,” Herlihy said. “He will need a bit of luck from out there but he raced well last start and probably needed the run.
“He should be thereabouts again, but he just needs that bit of luck.”
Herlihy has reserved expectations with last start winner Hugo George, who will meet a competitive field in the Lincoln Farms Mobile Pace (2200m).
“He got a lovely trip in behind the leader last start,” Herlihy said. “He is getting a bit stronger so I can see him being competitive again. He could be in the first four.”
Debutant Last Tango In Heaven will round out the season for Herlihy in the Fresher Foods Mobile Pace (2200m).
The juvenile pacer will be met by some promising two-year-olds in the race, including the Purdon-Rasmussen-trained Bettor Call Me and Nevada.
“He would have been quite competitive if Mark (Purdon) hadn’t come up,” Herlihy quipped.
“He’s a nice enough horse, but probably in six months’ time he will be a better prospect.”
Reflecting on the season, Herlihy said he was happy enough with the stable’s tally of 33 wins, but was a bit disappointed he was not able to contest some of the bigger three-year-old trot races with talented square-gaiter Bolt For Brilliance.
“We have ticked away pretty well,” he said. “Like everybody else we lost a good chance of winning some of the nicer races with the likes of Bolt For Brilliance.
“Whether he would have been good enough to beat Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride I am not sure, but he was trotting well.
“We will find out in the spring how he has come up again.”