Driver Mark Purdon and coach Natalie Rasmussen after winning the NZ Trotting Cup. Photosport
New Zealand’s most successful horse racing stable is being disbanded in news that will shock the industry.
All Stars Racing, the harness racing cage capable of beating all champion coaches Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, will stop training from 31 December.
The couple remain together as a couple but have decided to take another year of horse training and if and when they choose to return, it will be on a much smaller scale than the large operation they run in Rolleston on the outskirts of Christchurch.
Their state-of-the-art property will remain open but is run by current cage foreman Hayden Cullen and his wife Amanda, with Purdon and Rasmussen happy to help around big carnival time if needed.
But the days of the All Stars engine that dominated harness racing on both sides of the Tasman and were clearly one of the best in the world, are over.
“Time to break,” Purdon told the Herald.
“Between us, Nat and I have been training or working with horses for nearly 70 years,” said 56-year-old Purdon. Rasmussen is 43 years old.
“We want to rest, refresh ourselves and take the time to enjoy life next year.
“And during that break we will take some time to consider what our future will look like.”
Purdon has said he will keep his driving license so he can still drive big race meetings but Rasmussen is still considering whether he will.
Hayden is a good young trainer and we’ve made a commitment to him that at least initially we will ride the horse at the big carnival if the need arises.
“We have told him that we are happy to come to help lead this carnival, but the stables will be his with his wife Amanda and the business will be theirs, obviously not ours.
All Stars Racing will be closed from December 31st and if we return to training full-time I would say it will be on a much smaller scale.
“But it is something we will think about during our year off.”
Purdon will be bringing an elite horse team to Australia for a small campaign at the end of the summer to target the big races there in honor of their owners and the fact that Cullen will be busy setting up his new business.
Purdon and Rasmussen dominated the New Zealand Cup carnival in Addington last week, winning the New Zealand Cup for the sixth time in seven years as well as three other group one races.
Their dominance is unlike any seen in New Zealand races before with home breaking every record in the harness industry.
Purdon was raised to be a champion coach, like his father Roy and brother Barry but since he had his own training in 1995, he has coached a staggering $ 58 million winner in New Zealand alone while he has won most of Australia’s richest few races. time.
Rasmussen joined him as a life and training partner in 2013 and the All Stars operation moved up one notch, with the Australian coach having a relentless work ethic and organizational skills and being a great big racer.
Their superstar pioneering squad is too long to list but was given the title by Lazarus and in the last 12 months they have coached New Zealand and Auckland Cup winners as well as Inter Finals Dominion Pacing and Trotting. Winning normal group races like Oaks and Derby races is so common that they can barely register.
Purdon and Rasmussen informed their staff of their decision to exit the industry full-time this morning and are delighted that many of the owners have not only supported their move but also said they will support Cullen in his new business away from the All Stars property.
But the change in the New Zealand harness racing landscape will be profound.
Stable dominates the betting market and race day and annual sales. For many of their rivals, their departure will create new opportunities and even optimism about their chances of winning at the highest level.
And new faces who win the biggest races won’t hurt New Zealand’s harness racing.
Will Purdon, and even Rasmussen, finally return to full-time training? Maybe.
But will the All Stars Racing behemoth start over and conquer everything in its path? Almost certainly not.
So today’s news is not only the end of an era, but the end of one of the greatest chapters in New Zealand’s racing history.