Picture: Rob Williams
Picture: Rob Williams

Natalie’s bombshell decision takes star performers out of game


Denis Smith

THIS week's bombshell. After last week's opinion that Natalie Rasmussen would be at the top of the harness tree for a long time to come, she announced she is taking a year off with her partner Mark Purdon.

The following explains.

All Stars Racing, the all-conquering harness racing stable of champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, will cease training from December 31.

The pair remain together as a couple but has decided to take a year away from training horses and if and when they choose to return it will be on a much smaller scale than the huge operation they run at Rolleston on the outskirts of Christchurch.

Their state of the art property will remain open but be run by current stable foreman Hayden Cullen and his wife Amanda, with Purdon and Rasmussen happy to help out around the times of the major carnivals if needed. But the days of the All Stars machine which has dominated harness racing on both sides of the Tasman and is clearly one of the best in the world, are over.

"It is time for a break," Purdon told the New Zealand Herald newspaper. "Between us Nat and I have been training or working with horses almost 70 years combined," says Purdon who is 56.

Rasmussen is 43.

"We want to have a break, freshen up and take time to enjoy life next year.

"And during that break we will take time to consider what our future looks like."

Purdon says he will retain his race driving licence so he can still drive at major race meetings but Rasmussen is still considering whether she will.

"Hayden is a good young trainer and we have made a commitment to him that at least initially we will drive the horses at major carnivals if needed.

"We have told him we are happy to come help out leading in to these carnivals but the stables are going to be his with his wife Amanda's and the business will be theirs, definitely not ours.

"All Stars Racing will be closed down from December 31 and if we even come back to training full time I would say it would be a on a lot smaller scale.

"But that is something we will think about during our year off."

Time to abolish whips

AT last. Definitive evidence that should lead to the abolition of the whip in racing.

Two papers published in journal Animals lend support to a ban on whipping in horse racing. They respectively show that horses feel as much pain as humans would when whipped, and that the whip does not enhance race safety.

Do horses feel pain when whipped? Racing industry officials have long held that they don't. Yet in two studies released around Melbourne Cup week, Professor Paul McGreevy from the University of Sydney School of Veterinary science and his colleagues have found that not only have horses evolved to feel as much pain when whipped as a human would, but that there is no compelling reason to whip these animals at all.

The culmination of nearly a decade of research, these findings have the potential to fundamentally change the racing industry, locally and worldwide. Published across two papers in open access journal Animals, Professor McGreevy says he would not be surprised if the findings prompt the "phasing out of whipping in racing in Australia within the next two years''.

Whipping hurts horses Professor McGreevy and colleagues examined whether horses are likely to feel as much pain as humans would when whipped.

Using microscopic samples of skin from 10 deceased humans and 20 euthanised horses, they looked for differences between the species' skin structure and nerve supply. The results revealed "no significant difference" between humans and horses in the concentration of nerve endings in the outer layers of skin, nor any difference in thickness of this skin layer.

"This was not surprising, as horses, like humans, need robust yet sensitive skin to respond to touch, say, from flying insects or other horses," said Professor McGreevy.

"From this, we can deduce that horses are likely to feel as much pain as humans would when being whipped.

"Repeated strikes of the whip in horses that are fatigued as they end a race are likely to be distressing and cause suffering. A horse's loss of agency as it undergoes this kind of repeated treatment is thought to lead to learned helplessness."

In another paper, Professor McGreevy and colleagues, including Professor Phil McManus from the School of Geosciences, used data from the UK racing industry to compare 67 races with whips to 59 without, controlled for variables including number of horses, racetrack surface characteristics on the day, and race distance.

"In the UK, unlike in Australia, the racing authorities hold whip-free races for apprentice jockeys," Professor McGreevy explained.

"This seems at odds with the racing industry's claim that whips are necessary for steering, and therefore, jockey safety.

"Nevertheless, our analysis of racing stewards' reports from the two types of races revealed no statistical safety difference between races with and without whips."

He and his co-authors also found that race times and metrics of racing integrity - compliance with rules - did not differ between the kinds of races.

"This invalidates industry assumptions to the contrary," Professor McGreevy said.

"The findings of ths study clearly show that the use of whips in horse racing is unneccessary, unjustifiable and unreasonable.''

Honour board

NOTHING new on the driver's side of the leaderboard this week with Pete and Narissa McMullen scoring four winning drives apiece.

The trainers section produced a wonderful result with Trent Lethaby, Darrell Graham, Ron Sallis and Alistair Barnes all finding victory lane on two occasions over the week.

Most pleasing was Gabi Get Along at Redcliffe on November 15 for Andrew and David Millard. First up after three years spell.

Ipswich factor: 21/54.

Redcliffe, November 13: Arma Augustus (Taleah McMullen for Trent Lethaby).

Albion Park, November 14: King Of the Stars (Pete McMullen for Graham Dwyer); True Confessions (Narissa McMullen for Steve Cini); BD Khaosan (Shane Graham for Darrell Graham); Gee Up Neddy (Hayden Barnes).

Redcliffe, November 15: Nikitoras (Pete McMullen for Graham Dwyer); Huinter Red (Pete McMullen for Graham Dwyer); Burmach (Jonah Hutchinson for Ron Sallis); Playing Arkabella (Steve Doherty for Mal Charlton); Abercrombie Tab (Matt Elkins for Dan Russell); Gabi Get Along (Andrew Millard for David Millard).

Albion Park, November 17: Bondi Shake (Hayden Barnes for Al Barnes); Atomic Bombshell (Narissa McMullen for Mark Rees); Our ridgey Didge (Narissa McMullen for Ron Sallis); Courageous Saint (Angus Garrard for Darrell Graham); Larry Lincoln (Hayden Barnes for Al Barnes); Colby (Narissa McMullen).

Redcliffe, November 18: Mach Torque (Pete McMullen for Chantal Turpin); Pin Code (Matt Elkins for Damo Shaw); Superbon (Paul Diebert for Phil Mitchell).

Redcliffe, November 19: Arma Augustus (Taleah McMullen for Trent Lethaby).

Handy tips

SELECTIONS for Albion Park on Saturday night.

R1: E/w 4: One Off (G Dixon).

R2: Box trifecta 1-2-3: Lisa Linvoln (P Diebert)-Power Surge (G Dixon)-Courageous Saint (A Garrard).

R3: Quinella 3-5: Speedy Dominic (N Dawson) and Tactical Response (D Veivers).

R4: Box trifecta 8-9-1: Northern Muscle (P Diebert)-Majestic Simon (P McMullen)-Aveross Don (G Dixon).

R5: Quinella 2-5: Larry Lincoln (H Barnes) and Millwood Tilly (C Turpin).

R6: Quinella 5-6: Mach Torque (C Turpin) and Mademoiselle Jujon (G Dixon).

R7: E/w 3: Invincible Loxton (A Garrard).

R8: Quinella 2-5: Tact Bess (G Dixon) and Montana Chief (A Garrard).

R9: Quinella 3-7: Sparkling Cullect (A Sanderson) and Colt Thirty One (G Dixon).

R10: Box trifecta 1-2-7: Im The Commando (G Dixon)-BD Khaosan (S Graham)-Gee Up Neddy (H Barnes).

R11: Box trifecta 7-8-9: Wee Man Trouble (A Sanderson)-Greg The Great (P McMullen)-Our Overanova (T Dixon).

Marburg guide

Tips and comment for Sunday meeting at Marburg.

Race 1: Tips 5-1-6.

STRAY TO THE POOLROOM: Last start winner Redcliffe in good time, might be too strong.

ROCK STAR BABE: Form very consistent, nearing win and draw helps.

ROYAL PRINCESS: Has all the form and is probably best chance, but draw does not help.

Race 2: Tips 5-4-6.

CLARES FOOL: Proved too strong when won here from same draw 08/11, going very well.

MAGHERA MAGGIE: 2nd here last start, improving.

TEACHERS PET: Draw is a problem goes well this track.

Race 3: Tips 1-2-7.

SWEET SCOOT: 2nd from this alley, October 25th and will be handy again.

GINA TARANTELLA: Newcomer, stable flying, watch market.

LITTLE DEE: Form sound, and gets lovely trip.

Race 4: Tips 4-5-8.

BEEF CITY STARZZZ: Will go forward, chance from close up.

GOSLING IN FLIGHT: Gate speed and tough.

NEWMERELLA MOLLY: Will charge home late.

Race 5: Tips 1-3-7.

MY ULTIMATE HELL: Veteran who will be handy through out.

RANCHO MAN: Will go forward hard.

VOODOO FELLA: Great form at last three starts, go well again.

Race 6: Tips 1-2-3.

HIT THE TRACK: Redcliffe form good plus gate speed.

ITS MEGS: Close 2nd Albion Park two starts back, tough.

IMA BEACH BABE: 2nd Albion Park last time out. Gun driver.

Race 7: Tips 2-3-4.

MIZZ ADELE: Redcliffe form ok, draw helps.

ADRENILINE RUSH: Winner her October 5, good Redcliffe efforts.

TRUNKEY DIGGER: 2nd Redcliffe last time out, could figure in this.

Race 8: Tips 2-3-4.

LORIMER LADY: Gate speed, and could win if led.

MAJORDOIT: Holds key to race. Has ability but not won since March this year.

BEEF CITY BLAZE: Goes good here, but needs trail.