Some things have changed, some have stayed the same.
At the elite level, few can remain at the very top for very long. That’s what makes dynasties like Hawthorn, New England Patriots, Golden State Warriors and Melbourne Storm so remarkable and so hard to replicate.
In Harness Racing, it is perhaps even harder to stay atop the pile. Unlike teams, you cannot swap your soldiers and expect similar results. One injury to a horse can derail any campaign – and end careers.
The underrated factor in our sport is the expectations on our best horses to be able to race with the best at a mile as well as two miles, as well as everything in between.
As predicted, we’ve seen some of the four-year-olds explode onto the Grand Circuit scene and something tells me there is a nifty bunch of three-year-olds ready to do the same.
With the warmer months behind us, we’ve seen , NZ Cup, ID18, Auckland Cup, WA Cup, Hunter Cup, Bonanza, Chariots of Fire and a $1 million Miracle Mile. We know who won them but let’s see where they all line up as most head towards the paddock to get some sun on the back and grass in the belly…
1 TIGER TARA (Kevin Pizzuto)
Highlights: ID18, Hunter Cup, Vic Cup, runner-up NZ Cup
A brilliant season which is unblemished in my opinion, despite not being a major player in the Miracle Mile. His dominance over the staying trips has been obvious to all and any horse that comes within a nose from winning all of the Hunter Cup, Inter Dominion, Victoria Cup and New Zealand Cup gets the nod from me.
2 SPANKEM (Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen)
Highlights: Kaikoura Cup, Canadian Club Sprint, Miracle Mile
His Kaikoura Cup win surprised many but it was just the start of things to come. His ID18 campaign was magnificent and is where he announced himself as a contender on the Grand Circuit scene. Magical training from Mark & Natalie saw him win the Canadian Club a week before topping the lot with a 1:47.7 Miracle Mile triumph.
3 THEFIXER (Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen)
Highlights: NZ Cup, Ballarat Cup, Allied Express Sprint
A beautiful trip saw him overcome Tiger Tara and Dream About Me in the NZ Cup before he ventured towards Oz with bad intentions. First-up, he defied physics to topple Rackemup Tigerpie in the Group 1 Ballarat Cup before being Tiger Tara’ed in the Hunter Cup. His bounce back was ferocious winning the Allied Express Sprint at Group 1 level, then running second in the Miracle Mile.
4 TURN IT UP (Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen)
Highlights: Auckland Cup, Waikato Flying Mile, Franklin Cup, runner-up NZ FFA
Do not be surprised to see this guy at No.1 in 12 months time. He’s that good.
He’s been looked after to this point but have seen his devastating speed when winning the Waikato Flying Mile from behind the leader as well as his all-the-way win in the Auckland Cup at start nine. He’s the one I want to be with moving toward an NZ Cup and Auckland Inter Dominion campaign.
5 OUR UNCLE SAM (Chris Frisby)
Highlights: Bohemia Crystal FFA, runner-up ID18, runner-up Hunter Cup
What a season this fella has had. Consistency throughout the big races was rewarded with Group 1 glory in the Bohemia Crystal with a gutsy win from the breeze. He put his flag in the ground throughout ID18 and ran a dashing second in the Hunter Cup. Only a five-year-old, he should be even better at the level next time in.
6 POSTER BOY (Emma Stewart)
Highlights: Bonanza, Chariots of Fire, third place Miracle Mile
He answered any critics he may have with a brilliant – and relatively easy – win in the Bonanza and Chariots of Fire. Yes, he was never a winning chance in the Miracle Mile but running third is still an enormous achievement for a four-year-old. His speed will see him win many big races in exciting fashion.
7 CRUZ BROMAC (Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen)
Highlights: Len Smith Mile, NZ FFA, ID18 heats x3
Currently sidelined with an injury, I’d suggest his best may be behind him but Cruz is the reigning Len Smith Mile and NZ FFA champ. He also looked peerless in the ID18 heats, dominating all three before a solid third place in the final. His fourth in the NZ Cup was also meritorious.
8 ROCKNROLL LINCOLN (Justin Prentice)
Highlights: WA Cup, Governors Cup, Bunbury Cup
I must admit, until I watched him win the WA Pacing Cup I would’ve struggled to pick this horse out of any race. Today, he has banked half a million and has many more riches ahead thanks to Perth’s isolation and Chicago Bull’s absence. Hopefully he’s a horse we see travel east to tackle some of the big races because he has undeniable talent.
9 MY FIELD MARSHAL (Tim Butt)
Highlights: Fremantle Cup, Village Kid Sprint)
Things went awry early on in his Miracle Mile defence but on the health front, all seems okay which is excellent. His trip to Perth was worthwhile as he claimed the Fremantle Cup and was a gallant fourth in the WA Cup despite a less than ideal run. He also collected the Village Kid during his trip to the west.
10 PRINCESS TIFFANY (Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen)
Highlights: New South Wales Oaks
The cat is placed firmly amongst the pigeons here and truthfully, I wrestled over tenth position for a long while. The truth also is that this filly is something special and Mark Purdon was quoted throughout the week claiming she may just be the best horse he has ever travelled to Australia. Yes, in case you’ve forgotten, Lazarus was here more than once. Kiwi racing expert Mick Guerin claims this magical filly would have won the Ladyship Mile and had it not been for some health issues, she’d be still unbeaten after her 13 starts to date.
Next in line: Chase Auckland, Tell Me Tales, Pat’s Delight, Star Galleria, Utmost Delight, Ashley Locaz, Jack’s Legend.
Ineligible due to injury or recent retirement: Dream About Me, Carla’s Pixel, Jilliby Kung Fu, Soho Tribeca, Chicago Bull, Shadow Sax.