Lazarus torches Cup field - again

The Southland Times - - RACING -

You know you are on an­other level when have time to take a peek at the big screen and watch your­self win the pin­na­cle of your sport.

Mark Pur­don, who trains in part­ner­ship with Natalie Ras­mussen, has been aware how great his now two-time New Zealand Trot­ting Cup win­ner Lazarus is for a long time but he now ad­mits he is sim­ply a level above his peers.

Lazarus, who was in a race of his own at Ad­ding­ton on Tues­day, was so far in front in the $800,000 New Zealand Trot­ting Cup at Ad­ding­ton, Pur­don was able to see how great his win­ning mar­gin was on the big screen that sits just be­fore the fin­ish­ing post.

The win­ning mar­gin was five and a quar­ter lengths, short of the ten lengths of his 2016 vic­tory but im­pres­sive all the same.

‘‘I’ve said for a while he’s a cham­pion and that just sums him up,’’ Pur­don said.

So what is it like driv­ing the horse that seem­ingly ev­ery­one wants to win, under the roar of 20,000 plus race­go­ers, cruise to an al­most ef­fort­less vic­tory?

‘‘It’s very emo­tional and it re­ally puts a tin­gle up your spine. You get to see the big screen about 150 (me­tres) from the fin­ish and you know it’s all over,’’ Pur­don said.

‘‘I prob­a­bly new at the quar­ter (400 me­tres to go), it was all over then re­ally, he was trav­el­ing so good, it gives you a real buzz.’’

On the side­lines, Lazarus’s own­er­ship team of Kevin Rise­ley, Trevor Casey, Phil and Glenys Ken­nard were also strug­gling to con­trol the raw emo­tion of watch­ing their cham­pion go backto-back in New Zealand’s great­est race.

Phil Ken­nard said ‘‘words fail to de­scribe him’’.

The quar­tet are well aware they have a once in a life­time horse on their hands who is go­ing to take them on the ride of their lives.

‘‘You’d never dream of this, I had tears in my eyes,’’ Casey said.

Lazarus’ took his ca­reer earn­ings to $2,678,947 with the win. Not bad for a $75,000 pur­chase from the 2014 New Zealand Premier Year­ling Sale.

Twelve months af­ter Lazarus cre­ated an un­for­get­table piece of New Zealand Trot­ting Cup his­tory with a 10 length vic­tory in race record time, the ex­pec­ta­tion on him was huge.

Re­lief was a key­word fol­low­ing the race.

‘‘It re­ally is a re­lief be­cause there has never been a favourite as short as what he was,’’ Casey said.

‘‘You know he’s good but for him to come out and show it is just... un­be­liev­able,’’ he said.

In the min­utes fol­low­ing the vic­tory, Casey, with tears still flow­ing down over his beam­ing smile, was try­ing to get used to the tag of two time New Zealand Trot­ting Cup win­ning owner.

‘‘He’s very spe­cial, un­be­liv­e­able.’’

Lazarus time of 3:55.00 for the 3200 me­tres was well out­side his blis­ter­ing race record of 3:53.10 set last year but win­ning a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive Cup was enough for Phil Ken­nard.

‘‘How can you de­scribe this feel­ing,’’ he said.

Lazarus, the reign­ing Horse of the Year, has now won 31 of his 36 starts. The last eight wins have come on the bounce.

Pur­don, who brought up 2000 train­ing wins on New Zealand soil last month, con­firmed that, all go­ing to plan, Lazarus will re­turn in 2018 in an at­tempt to join In­di­anapo­lis, False Step and Ter­ror To Love in the ex­clu­sive three con­sec­u­tive Cup win­ners club. But first, look out Aus­tralia. Pur­don, who drove his fifth Cup win­ner, fol­low­ing on from Il Vi­colo 1995-1996, Adore Me 2014 and Lazarus in 2016, con­firmed his cham­pion will al­most certinly be on a plane on Fri­day to head to the Perth In­ter Do­min­ion se­ries.

Adore Me’s 2014 vic­tory gave this is Pur­don his first train­ing win in the Cup for 18 years but he has now won three of the last four with a four-peat only halted by Ar­den Rooney, a horse he trained un­til mid-way through his five-year-old sea­son when he was trans­ferred to the Vic­to­rian sta­ble of Ker­ryn Man­ning.

Tues­day’s race, the 114th run­ning of the Cup, be­gan with a sham­bolic start.

Seel The Deal was slow away and ended the chances of Dream About Me who col­lected him in the process.

Seel The Deal’s driver Ricky May, a seven-time win­ner of the Cup, ended up on the track but nei­ther horse or driver suf­fered any se­ri­ous in­juries.

Lazarus went straight to the front and the race was all over from there.

Pur­don left the chas­ing pack be­hind on the home bend.

For­mer Kiwi Tiger Tara, now trained in Aus­tralia by Kevin Piz­zuto, caused more drama when he gal­loped down the back straight on the last lap, but re­co­cov­ered to fin­ish a gal­lant third – three quar­ters of a length be­hind fouryear-old Jack’s Leg­end.

The lat­ter grousely ex­ceeded the ex­pec­ta­tions of his trainer Barry Pur­don, Mark’s brother.

‘‘Maybe we’ll get him next year,’’ Pur­don quipped of his now five-time Cup win­ning brother.

Sec­ond favourite Heaven Rocks, in the hands of Ras­mussen, had to set­tle for 10th place fol­low­ing a gal­lop at the start.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Lazarus leaves the New Zealand Cup field in his wake at Ad­ding­ton yes­ter­day.

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