Mark handed the accolades to Olivia after her astute drive behind AKUTA to become the first junior driver to win the Ashburton Flying Stakes,going close to the time the mighty Lazarus went in 2017 before he went on to win the NZ Cup for which Akuta is now a raging favourite.

“She certainly did her homework during the week. I talked about the start with and left the rest up to her.She handled him well early  and she read the race well after that”

Olivia allowed the superstar to settle last then moved sharply forward to sit outside the leader Kango with 1400 to run.

In true Natalie Rasmussen style she controlled the pace from there and was simply too strong in the run home.It was the 11th winner of the race Mark has trained,6 in succession from 2014.

Now he will try and make it 11 Kaikoura Cups as well,a traditional Cup leadup for many stable Cup runners. Akuta will finish his Cup campaign there adding “a couple of lengths” to his fitness level from Monday.

SELF ASSURED got a nice trip behind Akuta thanks to an astute move from Tony Herlihy but was unable to capitalise reflecting relative performances at home.However his fourth placing added to an astonishingly consistent record.

Mark was not on track, handling home duties for a day that turned out mixed for the stable. It was a bad start when MILLWOOD NIKE had to be withdrawn from the Nevele R series heat.

“I think it will be ok. She got a kick in a hock and we got the experts in to check it out.There didn’t appear to be anything major and she jogged up ok but I was just a litlle  concerned there might be some underlying tendon damage or something so we played it safe.There is still some chance we haven’t found it all and chance something else might develop but I think she should be ok”

Mark put no blame on Vessem in his defeat -the second time in three runs he has handed up the lead to trail then retaken it.

“I suppose the fear is he will end up three back if the leader hands up.But personally I would have preferred him in the trail,especially has he has had to do some work early” Mark quipped

“Now these races are 1700 there is extra work to be done before the bend too”

The smart filly TREACHEROUS BABY had to work from a difficult draw,while MADRID had no luck finding racing room from mid rail pocket.CARRERA RAPIDO,stepping up in class,battled strongly in his heat

OSCAR BONAVENA battled the last bit but with Muscle Mountain in complete control and this week he kept a long gap to challengers which blunted Oscar’s finishing burst.



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