LAST week champion horseman Mark Purdon indicated there is a major threat to Lazarus’ status as the leading horse in his stable.
Following a trial Rangiora, Purdon stated the multi-millionaire was being seriously challenged by enigmatic performer Heaven Rocks.
Purdon prepares the pacers with his partner, Natalie Rasmussen.
“It was a good hit-out for both of them,” Purdon said. “Lazarus has improved again, but he’ll need to as Heaven Rocks is a very fast horse and is mentally a lot better.”
Purdon’s prediction proved spot one when the pair returned to the trials this afternoon.
Lazarus and Heaven Rocks began from 40-metre handicaps, with the latter sent to the ‘death seat’, while the former travelled midfield.
Driven by Rasmussen, Heaven Rocks proved too strong along the home straight as Lazarus finished solidly for third.
Heaven Rocks covered the 2600-metre stand in 3:15.1, with the son of Rock N Roll Heaven cruising over the last half in 55 seconds.
Have Faith In Me – also prepared by Purdon and Rasmussen – galloped from his 40-metre handicap before recovering to run fourth.
A multiple Group One winning Australian Pacing Gold graduate, Heaven Rocks more than impressed Rasmussen with his performance.
“I think the only horse I’ve driven who is as fast as this guy is Blacks A Fake,” Rasmussen said. “He is a freak.
“He’s just got incredible speed and natural, raw ability. When he puts it together like he did today, there aren’t too many horses which can go with him.”
Despite the loss, Lazarus remains a $2.30 favourite in his New Zealand Cup defence, with Heaven Rocks tightening from $3 to $2.60.
- PAUL COURTS