Champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, whose All Stars Racing has become the most successful harness racing stable in New Zealand history, will be taking a step back from the sport.
On Nov. 16, the team announced their plan to disband All Stars Racing by Dec. 31.
“It is time for a break,” Purdon said to the New Zealand Herald newspaper. “Between us Nat and I have been training or working with horses almost 70 years combined. We want to have a break, freshen up and take time to enjoy life next year. And during that break we will take time to consider what our future looks like.”
Purdon (age 56) and Rasmussen (age 43) have not dismissed the idea of returning to the sport, but have said that their future participation would be at a decreased scale. By January 1, All Star Stables will be under lease to Hayden and Amanda Cullen—under the new name of Cullen Racing Stables—and carrying the stable colours until July 31, 2021. Despite the step back, Purdon plans to keep his driving license while Rasmussen has not yet decided whether she will or not.
“Hayden is a good young trainer and we have made a commitment to him that at least initially we will drive the horses at major carnivals if needed,” Purdon said to the New Zealand Herald. “We have told him we are happy to come help out leading in to these carnivals but the stables are going to be his with his wife Amanda’s and the business will be theirs, definitely not ours.”
For the remainder of the year, Purdon and Rasmussen plan to campaign their stable in Australia for the late-summer stakes races before their official retirement. The team just last week won their sixth New Zealand Cup in the last seven years and will be leaving behind a stable which historically sits unrivaled in New Zealand racing. Purdon and Rasmussen were responsible for such down-under stars as Lazarus N, who eventually established himself on the North American stage and now stands stud in the northern hemisphere; as well as Auckland Reactor N, who also competed in North America but returned to his homeland of New Zealand where he had most of his success.
Mark Purdon, from a champion training family, began his training career in 1995 after 14 years of driving. In his career, he has collected over $58 million in purses just in New Zealand. Rasmussen—Purdon’s life partner—joined the operation in 2013, herself having a driving career where she banked over $8 million in purses and a training career beginning in 2011 worth over $24 million in purses.