Mark Purdon finds himself in an unusual situation heading into Australasia’s biggest four-year-old race on Saturday night.

Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen have dominated Australasia’s major races in recent years, but they are coming off a Melbourne campaign where it was slim pickings by their lofty standards.

Their open-class stars Thefixer and Cruz Bromac were well beaten by Tiger Tara in the Hunter Cup and their classy three-year-old Im Anothermasterpiece had to be content with second to Team Tritton’s Muscle Factory in the Victoria Derby.

But TAB punters are backing Purdon and Rasmussen to strike back in the $200,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle on Saturday night.

Their comeback star Chase Auckland has been crunched from $2.80 into $2.50 favourite since drawing the pole, while major rival Ignatius is out from $2.50 to $3.

It’s a rematch from last week’s Group 2 Paleface Adios where Ignatius sat outside and beat Chase Auckland on his merits. Purdon is a little surprised Chase Auckland is favourite.

“I think Ignatius is the best horse in the race and the one we all have to beat,” he said.

“You’ve seen that in his past two runs. Chase Auckland has improved with each of his three runs back from the long time out, which we expected. But Ignatius should keep improving as well as he was only second-up last week.

“The draw certainly helps Chase Auckland and he’s got the speed to use it.”

Purdon said it was the draw alone which made Chase Auckland the best of his three runners. The others are Ashley Locaz (gate 12, $15) and All U Need Is Faith (gate four, $15).

“If Ashley Locaz had drawn where Chase has, Ashley would be our best chance for sure,” he said. “He’s gone to another level this campaign.”

Rasmussen will drive Chase Auckland, Luke McCarthy is on Ashley Locaz and Purdon has the reins on All U Need Is Faith. The other key players in the race are Victorian star Poster Boy (gate eight, $5.50) and the likely leader, Picard (gate two, $9.50).

Ignatius and the tactics his trainer-driver Jimmy Rattray employ from the wide draw are the key to the race.

There is a lot more than the $120,000 first prize up for grabs this week with the Chariots winner gaining a guaranteed run in the first $1 million Miracle Mile at Menangle on March 2.

Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup winner Tiger Tara is TAB’s $3.50 Miracle Mile favourite, but Ignatius has been $16 into $11 this week and Chase Auckland is a $16 shot.