Racing: Barry Purdon returns to the sulky at Alexandra Park tonight

By Michael Guerin

Driver Barry Purdon. Photo / NZ Herald
Driver Barry Purdon. Photo / NZ Herald

One of New Zealand's racing legends will make a rare racetrack appearance at Alexandra Park tonight.

New Zealand's most successful trainer, Barry Purdon, will don the silks to drive Cyclone Dream in the opening race at the Kumeu meeting.

While Purdon has won Auckland Cups and an Interdominion Trot Final in the sulky, he rarely drives on race night any more, having just 13 drives last season without a win.

Much of his stable driving in recent years has been done by former training partner Scott Phelan, with Tony Herlihy piloting stable stars Pembrook Benny and Raydon and junior driver Zac Butcher given his chance of the majority of the others.

But Purdon says he is looking forward to heading onto the track tonight.

"I still enjoy driving but have been keen to give the younger guys, like Scott and now Zac, their opportunities," said Purdon.

"But I have been driving this horse in work at home and Scott is sticking with a horse he drove to win last start so I'm happy to be on him."

Purdon says his appearance in the sulky tonight is in not the start of a comeback to driving.

"I'll still drive the odd one, especially if the owners want me on, but Tony will be sticking with Pembrook Benny and Raydon while he wants to.

"And Zac is a very good young driver I really rate."

Phelan recently ended his long-term partnership with Purdon and will leave the stable in two weeks' to try his hand at training in Australia.

"Scott will be missed because he is a great guy and a very good horseman."

Cyclone Dream's return to racing tonight can't go much worse than when he last raced at Ruakaka in January.

On that occasion he fell and injured his tail bone so badly it ended his entire 3-year-old season.

But he looked ready for tonight's resumption with an easy win at the workouts last week.

"He is better than maidens but this is not your normal maiden field, with horses like Pretty Awesome and Denny H," said Purdon. "My horse will be hard to catch off the front over 2200m if he trots away well but is worth following either way."

Denny H staged a huge recovery to win from an early gallop last Friday in a penalty-free race so is the logical favourite tonight, even though his early tardiness is not ideally suited to 2200m.

Purdon has a strong team of maidens returning to the races in coming months and Bettor Get Better starts that rolling in race two tonight.

She is drawnwell at barrier one and will be a warm favourite in a race where only Real Star looks a danger.

The Pick6 should prove to be a Pick5 tonight with high-class 4-year-old Charge Forward resuming in the first leg, race four.

He was rated not too far behind superstar stablemate Gold Ace last season and with trainer Steven Reid usually having his horses up to the mark fresh it is hard to see him beaten.

- NZ Herald

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