Racing: Life's a beach for Waikiki

By Michael Guerin

Under-the-radar three-year-old sensation eyes one of the greatest records in NZ racing.
Waikiki Beach could be unbeaten in 19 starts, close to Courage Under Fire's record of 24. Photo / Stuart McCormick
Waikiki Beach could be unbeaten in 19 starts, close to Courage Under Fire's record of 24. Photo / Stuart McCormick

Rarely has an unbeaten New Zealand racing star flown under the radar as much as Waikiki Beach.

But his star power could be about to ramp up as the three-year-old sensation embarks on a new Australian campaign aimed at one of the greatest records in New Zealand racing.

Waikiki Beach may be trained here by the all-conquering Purdon-Rasmussen stable but he has raced in New Zealand only twice, his first two starts as a juvenile last season.

Being Australian-bred he is eligible for their rich futurity series but not our Sires' Stakes or Sales Series and that has meant his other 14 starts have been in Australia, including wins in the Breeders Crown and NSW Derby.

With stablemate Lazarus good enough to dominate the Northern and NZ derbies, Waikiki Beach was saved for the late-season Australian riches so he will resume this Saturday in a lower grade race at Newcastle, with Luke McCarthy likely to drive.

He was originally nominated for the Newcastle Derby but scared his opposition away.

He is then expected to contest two more easy races, which means within a month he could be unbeaten in 19 starts, enticingly close to Courage Under Fire's record of 24 consecutive wins by a New Zealand-trained pacer.

While a lot still needs to go right for Waikiki Beach to reach that mark, starts 20, 21 and 22 are likely to be in a heat, semi and final of the Breeders Challenge in New South Wales, races he will be red hot to win.

Then, it could be on to the Breeders Crown, which again has heats, semis and a final which Waikiki Beach would be expected to dominate.

If those two series go without a hitch, Courage Under Fire's record could be within reach by season's end and back in his rightful place as a headline grabber.

Co-trainer Mark Purdon says he is happy with the way the long-striding star has come up this campaign but says winning sequences rarely factor into he and partner Natalie Rasmussen's plans.

Just last Friday, the stable's previous unbeaten filly Dream About Me lost for the first time, downed by stablemate Golden Goddess in a Nevele R heat at Addington.

"Those winning runs are obviously nice but it is hard for horses at this level to be ready to win every start, especially when they are fresh up," said Purdon.

But with the weaker opposition likely for many of his Australian starts this campaign, Waikiki Beach could have a legitimate shot at the record and his chase could become one of the great racing stories of the winter.

Coming the other way across the Tasman soon will be Arms Of An Angel, who starts her Jewels campaign at Menangle on Friday.

The world's most improved pacing mare hasn't raced since her third in the 1:47.5 Miracle Mile on February 28 and is likely to have two starts before the four-year-old mare's division of the Jewels at Cambridge on June 4, where she is favoured to become the first Australian-trained Jewels winner.

With fellow NSW pacer Heza Bromac and Messenger Pace runner-up My Kiwi Mate already confirmed for the Jewels, Harness Racing New Zealand is turning its attention to the trotting divisions, with a handful of Victorians being discussed as potential candidates for invitations.

Waikiki Beach

• Breeding: 3yo gelding Somebeachsomewhere-Cyclone Betty.

• Trainers: Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen.

• Record: 16 starts, 16 wins (14 in Australia, where he races as Our Waikiki Beach).

• Stakes: $699,913.

• Winning drivers: Mark Purdon (nine wins), Natalie Rasmussen (four), Luke McCarthy (two), Brent Barclay (one).

- NZ Herald

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