IT’S been 19 years since a four-year-old pacer has saluted in the Inter Dominion Pacing Final.
For those wondering, it Shakamaker at Moonee Valley in 2000.
Of course, many of the old stagers will remind you that the last four-year-old to win when the series was run in its ‘traditional’ format of three heats and a Final was Mark Hanover in 1991.
His reinsman? Mark Purdon, who’s brother Barry and their legendary father Roy Purdon were listed as the trainers of Mark Hanover.
So we come to 2019 and Purdon is poised to again be part of history when his training partner with the All Stars stable, Natalie Rasmussen equals ‘Mr Inter Dominion’ Brian Hancock’s record of five driving wins in this gruelling series.
Hancock won his Finals with Koala King (1980), Weona Warrior (1994) and Our Sir Vancelot (1997, 1998 and 1999).
Rasmussen combined with Queensland superstar Blacks A Fake for her four wins (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010).
Yet it would take a brave punter to suggest another pending superstar Ultimate Sniper cannot win Saturday night’s $500,000 decider at Alexandra Park in Auckland.
The pair have been installed as $1.40 favourites to get the job done. That’s even shorter than the mighty Elsu when he won at Auckland as a $1.55 favourite in 2005.
And according to the retired Hancock, records are made to be broken – or, at worst, equalled and reckons he’ll be cheering as loud as anyone for Rasmussen to achieve the feat against a quality field with stablemates Cruz Bromac and Thefixer listed as her biggest dangers.
“Nat’s a really good friend of mine,” Hancock said. “I’d love to see her win another Final.
“I did have to remind her the other day that even if she does win this Final, I’m actually still ahead of her: I won my five finals on three different horses, Nat will only have done it on two.
“Nat and Mark have really dominated it, haven’t they?
“But it’s been great to see Barry (Purdon’s) horses all going so well, too.
“I’ve got so many great Inter Dominion memories and the Purdon family have been such a big part of them.”
Rasmussen seems to handle the pressure and the publicity with ease and is as professional as they come.
While the Kiwis claim her as one of them, she is a proud Queenslander from a family steeped in harness racing history.
“To equal one of Brian records would be pretty special,” she told Sky Racing’s Adam Hamilton.
“I guess I’ve been lucky to drive some really nice horses.”
Mark does hold the combined record for Inter Dominion Final driving wins, three pacing and three trotting.
He’s odds-on to add to that with Winterfell ($1.70 with TAB) in the trotting Final. He will also drive second favourite Cruz Bromac ($7.50) in the pacing division.
Purdon already stands alone with seven Inter Dominion titles (two pacing and five trotting) as a trainer.
With Winterfell, along with a stunning five of the 12 runners the pacing final, he looks certain to add to that.
INTER DOMINION FACTS AND FIGURES:
PACING GRAND FINAL
* Ultimate Sniper was as much as $7 to win the Grand Final prior to the commencement of the heats. Opened $1.40 after the barrier draw and has remained at that quote.
* AG’s White Socks has been the biggest firmer of the series. He was $101 prior to the first round of heats and was still a $15 shot prior to the second round. He opened $9 after the draw.
Other firmers include Cruz Bromac ($26 first price offered) and Sicario ($201 before the heats and $151 prior to the barrier draw. Is now a $41 shot).
TROTTING GRAND FINAL
* Winterfell is a slight drifter since the draw from $160-$1.70. Best price offered for it was $17 prior to the heats.
*Marcoola has fluctuated wildly. Was as much as $31 and then as low as $2.30 prior to the first round of heats. Is $7 which is the quote offered after the barrier draw.
WHERE TO WATCH THE FINAL:
SKY RACING ACTIVE – Full showcasing through taking Trackside NZ’s coverage, but including Sky’s Cassie Fahey and Adam Hamilton.
SKY RACING 1 & 2
The Inter Dominion finals meeting will be covered across Sky 1 and 2, so Sky 2 will be made “free access” for all of Saturday.