Lazarus wins New Zealand Trotting Cup for second year running

You know you are on another level when have time to take a peek at the big screen and watch yourself win the pinnacle of your sport.

Mark Purdon, who trains in partnership with Natalie Rasmussen, has been aware how great his now two-time New Zealand Trotting Cup winner Lazarus is for a long time but he now admits he is simply a level above his peers.

Lazarus was so far in front in the $800,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington on Tuesday, Purdon was able to see how great his winning margin was on the big screen that sits just before the finishing post.

The winning margin was five and a quarter lengths, short of the ten lengths of his 2016 victory but impressive all the same.

​* Live: NZ Trotting Cup day 2017

Great clean-up begins after drunken debauchery at Melbourne Cup
Flashback: Kiwi flies to legendary Melbourne Cup win in 1983
Expensive buy Embellish proves his value with 2000 Guineas win
Gingernuts a 50-50 chance to race again
NZ Cup Day 2017: All set for one of Canterbury's biggest parties

"I've said for a while he's a champion and that just sums him up," Purdon said.

So what is it like driving the $1.40 favourite that seemingly everyone wants to win, under the roar of 20,000 plus racegoers, cruise to an almost effortless victory?

"It's very emotional and it really puts a tingle up your spine. You get to see the big screen about 150 (metres) from the finish and you know it's all over," Purdon said.

"I probably knew at the quarter (400 metres to go), it was all over then really. He was travelling so good, it gives you a real buzz."

On the sidelines, Lazarus's ownership team of Kevin Riseley, Trevor Casey, Phil and Glenys Kennard were also struggling to control the raw emotion of watching their champion go back-to-back in New Zealand's greatest race.

Phil Kennard said "words fail to describe him".

The quartet are well aware they have a once in a lifetime horse on their hands who is going to take them on the ride of their lives. 

"You'd never dream of this, I had tears in my eyes," Casey said.

Lazarus took his career earnings to $2,678,947 with the win. Not bad for a $75,000 purchase from the 2014 New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale.

Twelve months after he created an unforgettable piece of New Zealand Trotting Cup history with a 10 length victory in race record time, the expectation on him was huge.

Relief was a keyword following this year's race.

"It really is a relief because there has never been a favourite as short as what he was," Casey said.

"You know he's good but for him to come out and show it is just... unbelievable," he said.

In the minutes following the victory, Casey, with tears still flowing down over his beaming smile, was trying to get used to the tag of two time New Zealand Trotting Cup winning owner.

"He's very special, this is unbelievable."

Lazarus time of 3:55.00 for the 3200 metres was well outside his blistering race record of 3:53.10 set last year but winning a second consecutive Cup was enough for Phil Kennard.

"How can you describe this feeling?"

Lazarus, the reigning Horse of the Year, has now won 31 of his 36 starts. The last eight wins have come on the bounce.

Purdon, who brought up 2000 training wins on New Zealand soil last month, confirmed that, all going to plan, Lazarus will return in 2018 in an attempt to join Indianapolis, False Step and Terror To Love in the exclusive three consecutive Cup winners club. 

But first, look out Australia.

Purdon, who drove his fifth Cup winner, following on from Il Vicolo 1995-1996, Adore Me 2014 and Lazarus in 2016, confirmed his champion will almost certainly be on a plane on Friday to head to the Perth Inter Dominion series.

Adore Me's 2014 victory gave Purdon his first training win in the Cup for 18 years but he has now won three of the last four with a four-peat only halted by Arden Rooney, a horse he trained until mid-way through his five-year-old season when he was transferred to the Victorian stable of Kerryn Manning.

Tuesday's race, the 114th running of the Cup, began with a shambolic start.

Seel The Deal was slow away and ended the chances of Dream About Me who collected him in the process.

Seel The Deal's driver Ricky May, a seven-time winner of the Cup, ended up on the track but neither horse or driver suffered any serious injuries.

Lazarus went straight to the front and the race was all over from there.

Purdon left the chasing pack behind on the home bend.

Former Kiwi Tiger Tara, now trained in Australia by Kevin Pizzuto, caused more drama when he galloped down the back straight on the last lap, but recovered to finish a gallant third - three quarters of a length behind four-year-old Jack's Legend.

The latter greatly exceeded the expectations of his trainer Barry Purdon, Mark's brother.

"Maybe we'll get him next year," Purdon quipped of his now five-time Cup winning brother.

Second favourite Heaven Rocks, in the hands of Rasmussen, had to settle for 10th place following a gallop at the start.


 - Stuff