NEW Zealand champion Auckland Reactor will be chasing a long-awaited victory in this Saturday night’s $50,000 Petstock Bendigo Pacing Cup.
The enigmatic Kiwi pacer has not won for almost a year.
Natalie Rasmussen, the former Queenslander who dominated the harness racing headlines as Inter Dominion champion Blacks A Fake’s trainer and driver, could hold the key to reigniting Auckland Reactor’s form.
Rasmussen drove eight-year-old Auckland Reactor, once regarded as the best pacer in the southern hemisphere, at its first start since November when fourth behind The Gold Ace at Cambridge in New Zealand last Friday.
That performance earned a ticket into Bendigo’s classic at Lord’s Raceway in Junortoun.
“It certainly was a creditable effort and the horse was doing good work at the finish of the race,” trainer Mark Purdon said yesterday.
“He will strip a lot fitter for the race and providing he travels well tomorrow, I can’t see why he would not race well.”
Auckland Reactor will be one of a large contingent of horses from New Zealand that arrive in Melbourne today.
Purdon’s team will be based at Whittlesea for about two months.
Purdon said Rasmussen could be the right person to get the best out of Auckland Reactor, who has not won since an Inter Dominion heat in Perth last February.
“They seemed to go well together last Friday, she drove him in the race won by Gold Ace and she will stick with him at Bendigo,” Purdon said.
Auckland Reactor’s stablemate, Highview Tommy, the runner-up in the New Zealand Cup in November, will be driven by Purdon.
“I’m keen to give this horse a drive again,” said Purdon, who steered Highview Tommy to a memorable win in the Group One Ballarat Cup at odds of 100-1 almost a year ago.
Purdon has not driven the Bettors Delight seven-year-old in his races in NZ this preparation.
The champion trainer said Highview Tommy had run some of his best races in Australia.
“His form has been indifferent lately, but we know he races well in Australia. He has drawn well and I’m keen to drive him.”
Auckland Reactor has won 32 of 51 starts and more than $1.7 million in prizemoney and is likely to step from the pole position in Bendigo, with only first emergency Composed drawn inside his post.
Highview Tommy (4) which is almost a millionaire, with 16 victories and more than $940,000 in stakes, will also start from a top front row slot.
Bendigo Harness Racing Club general manager David Aldred said the Group Two Bendigo Pacing Cup had drawn a crackerjack field.
“The stars include millionaire Sushi Sushi, now back from New Zealand, and again in the hands of trainer Freddy Taiba, and last year’s Bendigo Pacing Cup champion Decorated Jasper,” Aldred said.
“Other Cup contenders include Motu Crusader, the winner of the Tasmanian Cup and last-start third placegetter in the Horsham Cup; Nyah Cup winner Saint Flash, Yarra Valley Cup winner Mustang Mach, NZ rising star Mah Sish, champion mare Bella’s Delight, Heza Trick and Tanabi Bromac.
Purdon is also confident his rising star trotting mare My Escapee has what it takes to win the Group Two Aldebaran Park Maori Mile.
Drawn on the outside of the second line, the Sundon mare will make her Australian debut.
The Trotting Derby and Oaks winner in New Zealand has been racing the cream of the trotting world, including stablemate I Can Doosit and the brilliant Stig.
Purdon, who will drive the mare, said the Maori Mile was ideal for My Escapee.
“She has a lot of speed and the shorter events that are in Victoria are what we are bringing her for,” he said.
“She has a lot of talent, but can also do things that hinder her chances.”
My Escapee has drawn the outside of the second row in the 1650 metre Maori Mile.
The form horse in the race, I Didn’t Do It, to be driven by Jodi Quinlan will start from post five on the front row,
The versatile I Didn’t Do It, trained by Merv Williamson has won three of its past five races, including the Kilmore Trotters Cup, The Bill Collins Mile and the Dullard Trot Cup.
Tim Butt’s Vulcan, the runner-up to I Didn’t Do It in the Dullard Cup, will be back on the second row with My Escapee.
The first of 10 races on Bendigo Pacing Cup night will be run at 6.30pm at the Junortoun track.
Petstock Bendigo Pacing Cup (Group 2) 2650m
1 Composed (emergency), Chris Alford
2 Auckland Reactor NZ, Natalie Rasmussen
3 Heza Trick NZ, Gavin Lang
4 Highview Tommy NZ, Mark Purdon
5 Motu Crusader NZ, Grant Campbell
6 Saint Flash, Glenn Douglas
7 Tanabi Bromac, Greg Sugars
8 Mustang Mach NZ, Chris Alford
9 Sushi Sushi, Greg Sugars
10 Mah Sish NZ, Anthony Butt
11 Decorated Jasper, Jodi Quinlan
12 Bellas Delight, David Moran (c)