First run in 1943 as the Easter Handicap, the feature race on the Premier Night’s racing programme at Addington last Friday (5th April) was the Breckon Farms/All Stars Racing Stables Easter Cup.

The Group 1 $100,000 race became known as the Easter Cup back in 1952, when it was taken out that year by Blue Mist. Since then the great race has been won by many notable horses, including Lordship (twice), Great Adios, Chequer Board, Robalan, Captain Harcourt, Sapling, Wee Win, Hands Down (three times), Luxury Liner, Inky Lord (a son of Lordship), Blossom Lady, Chokin, Desperate Comment, Master Musician, Monkey King (twice), Terror To Love, Adore Me, Christen Me, etc.

Since 2012, Breckon Farms have been the proud co-sponsor of the event and the other co-sponsor for the last eight running’s of the race, the All Stars Racing Stables of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, have remarkably won three of those races.

This year it was their star 4-year-old Turn It Up, already an Auckland Cup winner at just his ninth start and now a two-time Group 1 winner after only 11 career starts. He is now the winner of nine races, along with two seconds, for stake earnings of $321,500. The Australian-bred Courage Under Fire / O Narutac Bella gelding, was originally purchased for good friend and long-time stable client the late Neil Pilcher and after his passing, Mark Purdon purchased his share, handing Neil’s brother Lee a small share in the process, joining the other existing owners Jim and Ann Gibbs.

It was truly an incredible training feat, to win a 3200m classic race, having not raced for virtually three months and off the back of just one trial. Turn It Up made a good beginning from his 10m handicap in the hands of Mark Purdon and moved forward between runners to end up in the parked position, then moving inside two laps-to-go he went forward to take the lead. As they approached the 1800m point, Henry Hubert came forward to take the lead, with Turn It Up settling into a nice trail. With a lap-to-go, favoured runner Spankem (part-owned by the Breckon Racing Syndicate) came forward to sit parked, giving another All Stars runner and the favourite for the race Thefixer cover in the one-one. Into the home straight Turn It Up took the passing lane run and ran home well, just holding out the strong challenge of A G’s White Socks who came from back in the field, to win by a head, in the good time of 3:58.3 (the third-fastest in the history of the race, behind Christen Me and Monkey King) on a rain-affected track, with the current NZ Cup champion Thefixer in third placing. The Breckon Farms-bred Elle Mac also went a good race, finishing off her race well to finish in 6th placing, only 3.9 lengths from the winner.

Two races later, the All Stars team produced another star to win the other feature race on the programme, the Group 1 $200,000 Diamond Creek Farm New Zealand Pacing Derby. The colt Ultimate Sniper (Bettor’s Delight / Reality Check) confirmed his status as New Zealand’s leading 3-year-old with what appeared to be an effortless win. Driven by co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen, she took no chances with the favourite, taking him to an early lead and with no real challenges in the running, he won with ease, to take out his second derby, having won the Northern Derby last month. He is now the winner of 8-of-his-10-starts, for stakes of $493,692 and is raced by Philip and Glenys Kennard (Breckon Farms Syndicate Members), Gavin Douglas, Phil and Margaret Creighton and Kevin Riseley.

Earlier on the night’s card, Lotamuscle (Muscle Hill / Lotaluv) downed hot favourite Enhance Your Calm in the Group 1 $100,000 Inkwise New Zealand Trotting Derby, in what was a thrilling finish where Enhance Your Calm looked to have the feature race in safe keeping after pinching a two-length break on the field in the home straight having led throughout, before the Paul Nairn-trained Lotamuscle finished very quickly in the last few strides to get up and win by just a nose. This win gave driver Bob Butt his first New Zealand Group 1 win of his career, having won the 2015 Australasian Breeders Crown title with Conon Bridge in Melbourne to notch up his actual first Group 1 victory. Northerner Tricky Ric held third, five lengths ahead of the fourth runner. Interestingly, the time for the race was a full 6.6 seconds slower than that of the Breckon Farms – Six of the Best Syndicate filly Luby Lou’s time posted in winning the race last year.

Race 5 saw the Group 1 $90,000 Fred Shaw Memorial NZ Trotting Championship taken out by the tough staying trotter Speeding Spur, when he went back-to-back having won the event last year. He led all the way and proved too strong at the finish, in the hands of driver and co-trainer Josh Dickie, trotting the 2600m mobile in a quick 3:17.9 in the wet conditions. The margin was only a neck, but Speeding Spur did win with a very determined trade mark effort, making it nine Group 1 wins in his distinguished career. He has a total of 27 wins and 20 placings, for total stake earnings to date of $1,087,166. It was an emotional win for Josh Dickie, who gave credit to the horse’s courage and his late nana’s admiration for the horse after the race.

The other feature race on the night was the Group 2 $43,000 Avon City Ford New Zealand Welcome Stakes, for the 2-year-old pacers. This was taken out by another All Stars runner in One Change (Bettor’s Delight / Changedown) in the hands of co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen, who dropped back at the start to have only two behind him early, before getting the one-one with 1800m to go, then into the home straight he flew down the outer to just get up and catch the favourite Flying Even Bettor (part-owned by the Breckon Racing Syndicate) who had led throughout, to win by a nose (said to be 1/1000th of a second). This win made it two-from-two for the colt and with Flying Even Bettor and Virgil filling the minor placings, remarkably this completed a trifecta for the All Stars Stable, who have now won the event no less than 13-times in total, the last seven in succession. One Change was bred at Breckon Farms by Rob Carr and Don Kirkbride and is owned by Allstars Racing Stables Limited, Mike Woodlock and Trevor Casey. Originally, Neil Pilcher also had a share in this horse, but after his untimely death All Stars and Mike Woodlock who helps out at the barn, took over Neil’s share.

While the night was tinged with sadness in the loss of Neil Pilcher, many felt sure that he would have been watching over Addington that night with his trademark sly grin, as his horses performed well and won.

Rob Carr