Rasmussen's Nostalgic Return

Remarkable high-achieving horsewoman Natalie Rasmussen makes a nostalgic return to Perth this week determined to add another chapter to her illustrious career as a driver of the highest quality.

She will drive one of her favourite pacers, Ultimate Machete, in the $300,000 Retravision Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park when she hopes to land her second winner in Western Australia.

Keen harness racing fans will remember her as an 18-year-old who represented Queensland in the Australasian Young Drivers Championship series at Harvey, Pinjarra and Gloucester Park in March 1996.

She did not fare very well in the ballot for drives and did well to finish fifth behind WA’s Craig Goldfinch in the field of ten drivers. She finished third with Just A Joker (8/1) and fifth behind Son of Song (10/1) at Harvey, fourth with Blake Apollo (33/1) and fifth with Confide In Me (14/1) at Pinjarra and had sixth placings with Be Be Brosnik (16/1) and Bessarlie (11/2) at Gloucester Park.

Then on her second and most recent visit to Perth she was successful in a $10,500 invitation 1740m event for mares and restricted to female drivers at Gloucester Park in May 2004. She drove the David Pyburne-trained five-year-old Whitehouse Whisper, the solitary runner on the back line in a field of ten. 

Whitehouse Whisper, second favourite at 5/2, raced without cover in the first circuit before gaining an ideal passage and then finishing strongly to defeat Cee Jay Blaze (Emma Turnbull) by a neck.

Rasmussen has an outstanding record in the sulky behind four-year-old Ultimate Machete, having driven him 14 times for nine wins and five seconds. Ultimate Machete, a powerfully-built stallion and unbeaten in three starts at Gloucester Park, is favourably drawn at the No. 2 barrier on the front line and is generally considered one of the main dangers to his champion stablemate Lazarus.

Rasmussen, the co-trainer with Mark Purdon at the All Stars establishment in Christchurch, has an outstanding record in the sulky in New Zealand where she has had 547 drives for 204 wins, 103 seconds and 69 thirds for $6,286,467 in prizemoney.

Born in Townsville in 1977, she is best known as the trainer and driver of Blacks A Fake, the winner of four Interdominion pacing championships in Hobart (2006), Globe Derby Park (2007), Moonee Valley (2008) and Menangle (2010). Rasmussen also trained and drove Blacks A Fake when he finished a close second to Mr Feelgood in the 2009 Inters on the Gold Coast. Blacks A Fake, the winner of eleven Group 1 and ten Group 2 and 3 feature events for Rasmussen, retired with earnings of $4,575,438 from 72 wins, 19 seconds and five thirds from 105 starts.

New Zealand-bred pacers have dominated the Fremantle Cup in recent years and nine of the 12 runners in Friday night’s race were bred in New Zealand, the exceptions being the WA-bred Vultan Tin and Soho Tribeca and the Tasmania-bred Devendra. The past 12 Fremantle Cup winners were bred in New Zealand. Sandy Bay, bred in New South Wales, won the Cup in 2005 and the most recent WA-bred winners have been Golden Gears (2000) and Smooth Business (1994).

WA businessman Rob Watson bred and owns Soho Tribeca, who faces a stern test from the outside (No. 9) on the front line. Watson paid $20,000 for Pixel Perfect as a yearling in Tasmania. Pixel Perfect did not race, but Soho Tribeca has shone on the racetrack, earning $588,609 from 18 wins and 21 placings from 48 starts.

Kim Prentice, who drives Soho Tribeca, said that the five-year-old had worked superbly on Tuesday morning. He hinted strongly that he was unlikely to charge forward from the outside barrier with the stallion.

“In saying that, it could still happen,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Coolup trainer Phil Costello bred Vultan Tin, who will start from barrier three with Chris Voak in the sulky. “I think he has the job ahead of him, but I’m hoping he will land in a good position in the running line, either one-out and one-back or one-out and two-back.”

Champion WA reinsman Chris Lewis, fresh from four winners at Gloucester Park on Tuesday evening and a treble at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon, has won the Fremantle Cup six times but he faces an extremely difficult assignment with Motu Premier, who will start from the outside of the back line.

Michael Brennan, who prepared Im Victorious for his Fremantle Cup victory in 2014, said that The Bucket List had a perfect draw at No. 2 on the back line.

“I’m really happy with him and he should be able to lob three back on the pegs and do no work before being a sniper,” he said. “I’m pretty confident of a top-six finish.”