Women har­ness en­ergy

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - SPORT - ADAM HAMILTON Pic­ture: GETTY IM­AGES

GIRL power is dom­i­nat­ing Aus­tralian har­ness racing’s mar­quee event.

Head­ing into the fi­nal round of In­ter Do­min­ion qual­i­fy­ing heats at Cran­bourne in Vic­to­ria tonight, half the field for the grand fi­nal looks set to be trained and/or driven by fe­males.

Throw in the fact Tor­nado Val­ley, the rag­ing hot favourite for the trot­ting fi­nal, is driven by Kate Gath, and this se­ries is an ex­cit­ing sign of the times.

In the pac­ing se­ries, for­mer Gold Coast horse­woman and In­ter Do­min­ion “Queen” Natalie Ras­mussen leads the way as co-trainer and driver of the two cur­rent equal favourites for the fi­nal, Cruz Bro­mac and Spankem.

Pun­ters think she will win again with both horses at Cran­bourne, with Spankem $1.55 in his heat and Cruz Bro­mac even shorter at $1.08.

Ras­mussen, who is now based in New Zealand, is yet to de­cide which of the pair she will drive in next week’s $500,000 grand fi­nal. Her partner Mark Pur­don will drive the other.

“I can’t split them … and I don’t have to yet,” Ras­mussen said. “Both have thrived over here and it’ll prob­a­bly come down to luck in run­ning when they meet.”

Ras­mussen has driven in six In­ter Do­min­ion grand fi­nals – all on her for­mer cham­pion pacer Blacks A Fake – for a stag­ger­ing record of four wins and two sec­onds.

In part­ner­ship with Pur­don, she has trained the past two grand fi­nal win­ners, Smolda (2016) and Lazarus (last year).

Out­side of the Ras­mussen fac­tors, the other key fe­male play­ers in the pac­ing se­ries are Bec Bart­ley (driver and co­trainer of San Carlo), Kima Fren­ning (driver of Wrap­pers De­light), Lau­ren Trit­ton (co­trainer and driver of Max­i­man) and Amanda Turn­bull (trainer-driver of Ellmers Im­age).

The In­ter Do­min­ion fields will be fi­nalised af­ter tonight’s Cran­bourne heats.

Natalie Ras­mussen.

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