The chances of Lazarus taking on pacing's big boys in the New Zealand Trotting Cup are increasing by the day ... and they could get their most serious boost yet today.
Last season's champion 3-year-old is the $3.70 second favourite behind stablemate Have Faith In Me in the TAB market for New Zealand's greatest harness race at Addington on November 8.
However, he has yet to race in anything like open class and his trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen are usually reluctant to throw 4-year-olds into our toughest race.
Yet, as Lazarus prepares for his first public spin-around of the season at the Ashburton workouts today, Purdon says the Cup is a very real possibility.
The stable takes its big three to today's 2400m standing start affair, with Have Faith In Me and Smolda also entered.
"They are all at about the same level of fitness at the moment and we are happy with all three of them," Purdon told the Herald.
"While Lazarus has never raced these sort of horses he has been working with the other two and holding his own.
"Whether that means he can win a Cup, where you often have to be able to do work against a field full of the best horses, remains to be seen but at this stage he is on target for it."
Purdon has no great expectations timewise from today's workout, saying anything between a 3:05 to 3:10 overall time for the trio would be fine by him.
The workout and another one next week for the trio still has genuine significance from a New Zealand Cup, and possibly Inter Dominion, point of view.
While Smolda, second in the Cup last season and winner of the Hunter Cup, is a proven standing-start stayer, Have Faith In Me and particularly Lazarus are inexperienced from a stand, even though Have Faith In Me overcame a poor stand record to win the Auckland Cup.
Purdon hopes all three will handle the standing start today in the non-pressure environment, rather than starting the campaign on the back foot.
"That would be ideal but this is also what workouts and trials are for," he adds. "If one of them starts to miss away and not behave from the stands and that continues through until the first couple of races then targets could change.
"If is was Lazarus then maybe the Cup would fall off his agenda but more likely if Have Faith In Me didn't handle the stands then he is the most likely one we would change tack with and look at the Inters in Perth."
That rich series begins just two weeks after the New Zealand Cup and if Have Faith In Me was to be aimed at the Inters instead of the Cup it would dramatically change the markets for the two mega races.
Purdon says that decision won't be made for at least a month, with potentially one of his big guns a chance of racing at Addington on September 23.
"We could have one, maybe even two, ready for that race and then all three of them for two weeks after that at Addington again.
"So the standing-start thing will be important but at the moment all three are still on track."
Titan Banner has also rejoined the stable to be aimed at the Cup but will not resume until closer to October after having raced at the Jewels.
Rising to occasion
• Last season's glamour 3-year-old Lazarus might have a crack at the big time in the NZ Trotting Cup.
• He will clash with highly-rated stablemates Have Faith In Me and Smolda in a trial today.
• Have Faith In Me could also undergo an Inter Dominion preparation should he miss the Cup.