Risk pays off as All Stars claim fifth win in row

Self Assured trainer-driver Mark Purdon and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen celebrate winning the...
Self Assured trainer-driver Mark Purdon and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen celebrate winning the New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington in Christchurch yesterday. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen took a chance with Self Assured and it paid off when the star pacer exploded away from his opposition at Addington yesterday to seal his trainers’ fifth consecutive win in the New Zealand Cup.

The All Stars stable duo went into the country’s biggest harness race knowing they had the most talented of horses, but one they rated just a 50-50 chance of stepping away safely when the starting tapes flew.

Those concerns evaporated in the first few strides of yesterday’s race when Self Assured effectively sealed his victory with a brilliant beginning.

The faultless display came after Purdon and Rasmussen took a calculated gamble by taking the 5yr-old off the unruly starting position and then putting their masterful training skills to work.

"The cup is about winning and I took him off the unruly because I didn’t think he could win it from there," Purdon said.

"He was going to have to go around the field. It was a risk. If he had drawn on the inside you would say I have done the wrong thing.

"I was disappointed when he missed away in the cup trial, but we did a lot of practice between then and today and he got it right."

Purdon and Rasmussen not only cemented their place in New Zealand Cup history with Self Assured’s 3½-length win for his Victorian owner, Jean Feiss, but stablemates Spankem, driven by Rasmussen, and Ashley Locaz, driven by Tim Williams, filled second and third respectively.

Yesterday may have appeared like just another day at the office for Purdon and Rasmussen as they collected three group 1 wins and the trifecta in New Zealand’s most sought after race.

But that is far from how Purdon sees it.

"Having horses like this is what you do it for. And you have got to count yourself lucky."

"Most trainers have only got one of these type of horses and we have just filled the first three placings in the New Zealand Cup."

Self Assured’s victory was Purdon’s sixth win in the New Zealand Cup as a driver, equalling the late Cecil Devine.

The master horseman has now trained the winner eight times, six of them in partnership with Rasmussen.

The thrill of winning the country’s biggest harness race is yet to fade as Purdon keeps etching his name into its history books.

"You do get the same thrill from each win in the cup, especially when you do it for different connections each time.

"It is lovely to do it for Jean; she has been such a great supporter of ours."

"We have had horses in the past where I have suggested they have a better earning capacity in Australia after they’ve climbed the ladder here. But she wouldn’t take them off us."

Feiss enjoyed more success yesterday with her star mare, Amazing Dream, who delivered an astonishingly tough victory in the group 1 Nevele R Fillies Series Final.

Purdon indicated the Melbourne owner’s two stars could clash in next year’s New Zealand Cup.

Purdon and Rasmussen also won the group 1 the Sires Stakes Final with It’s All About Faith.

The beginning that handed Self Assured a huge early advantage over his stablemate Spankem and favourite Copy That was the biggest talking point following the race.

As Self Assured was settling in the trail behind Ashley Locaz, Copy That was drifting back through the field.

The North Island pacer was among several runners drawn on the inner who appeared to be disadvantaged when the starting tapes were released.

After his slow start from barrier 1, Copy That eventually settled last with a huge task in front of him.

The effort the Ray Green-trained pacer put in to try to get into the race told and he faded to eighth.

Green labelled the start of the race.

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