Racing: Lazarus the star of the show in All Stars sweep at Alex Park

By Michael Guerin

Lazarus easily wins the $250,000 Woodlands Northern Derby tonight. Picture / Michael Craig
Lazarus easily wins the $250,000 Woodlands Northern Derby tonight. Picture / Michael Craig

About the only thing Mark Purdon couldn't do at Alexandra Park tonight was make up his mind.

The champion trainer and partner Natalie Rasmussen pulled off another group race domination job, winning all four feature races they had runners in, with Lazarus the star of the show in the $250,000 Woodlands Northern Derby.

He overcame a slight setback since winning the Victoria Derby five weeks earlier to remain unbeaten as a three-year-old, bolting in but still only 0.1 of a second outside the national 2700m record.

He headed home a stable quinella beating Chase The Dream, one of three stable quinellas in group races for the All Stars tonight, while Smolda sat parked to win the $50,000 free-for-all.

But while it feels like Purdon can do anything he wants in harness racing at the moment, he can't decide who he thinks his best three-year-old pacer is.

Lazarus has now won two Derbys, the Sires' Stakes Final and Sales Series Pace so for most trainers he would be the best three-year-old they would ever train, but Purdon and Rasmussen also have unbeaten NSW Derby winner Waikiki Beach, who has already broken 1:51 for a mile.

"I honestly don't know which one is better, I keep changing my mind," says Purdon. "This little horse is a very, very good horse. He reminds me of Il Vicolo (who won two NZ Cups).
"But when you see Waikiki Beach beat the older horses the way he did a few weeks ago in 1:50 you realise how special he is.

"I think if they did meet it would come down to who was at their peak on that night and who got the better run." That won't happen this season, with Lazarus to stay in New Zealand and Waikiki Beach to return to Australia. The All Stars have a mini version of that battle in their juvenile ranks too, with More The Better for now having the upper hand over Pacing Major after their lead-trail quinella in tonight's $100,000 Young Guns Final.
But the Delightful Lady Classic for the juvenile fillies was more clearcut, with Spanish Armada sitting parked and simply outstaying her rivals, suggesting she deserves top billing among the fillies at the moment.

Smolda wore down an improved Sky Major in the free-for-all, with the winner now set to cap his massive season in the Easter Cup.

It wasn't all about the All Stars tonight though, with Lusty Mac cementing her spot in a hometown Jewels with a big win in the $40,000 mares feature while Queen Kenny gave Southland trainer Tony Barron one of his biggest Alexandra Park successes leading throughout in the Greenlane Cup.

- NZ Herald

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