Racing: Purdon needs to draw on Lady Luck

By Michael Guerin

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Champion horseman Mark Purdon faces a tricky end to the most successful 12 months in New Zealand harness racing history.

Purdon will take six leading chances to Melton on Sunday for the Australasian Breeders Crown finals, including four who will start first or second favourite.

While he dominated semifinals night last Friday, winning four races, the barrier draws this time round are not so kind to Purdon.

Of his six starters, only Border Control in the A$303,000 juvenile male pace fared well, opening as the $1.80 favourite after drawing barrier three.

But the rest of the team find themselves in unwanted starting positions.

Fly Like An Eagle lost favouritism for the 3-year-old male pace after drawing the outside of the front line, made worse by fellow Kiwi Texican drawing the ace.

Twist And Twirl would have been favourite for the 3-year-old filly pace but has a second-line draw, while Cyclone U Bolt has drifted in the market for the 3-year-old trot, after he drew the second line and his two biggest rivals drew to lead and trail.

So Purdon is left with one dominant favourite in Border Control and plenty of thinking to do before Sunday.

A good Sunday would cap the most lucrative year not just by a harness racing trainer but almost any New Zealand horse trainer ever this week.

While the New Zealand racing season starts on August 1, the Australasian Breeders Crown extends the season for Kiwi horses by a month, because in Australia the harness racing season, strangely, starts on September 1.

And with the ABC now targeted by the premier trainers, the best way to really judge a season is to use September 1 as your starting point.

Since September last year, Purdon has trained 138 winners in New Zealand for $2,736,138 in stakes, plus another 28 winners in Australia for nearly A$650,000 in stakes.

He could easily add another A$300,000 to that total this weekend, which would give him total stable earnings for the past 12 months of close to $4 million, a staggering amount for a New Zealand-based trainer.

Even Border Control faces an interesting test on Sunday though as while he has drawn three and will be expected to win, Canterbury pacer Franco Nelson, who has already beaten him, is drawn to sit on his back in the trail and get the passing lane.

That draw has seen Franco Nelson, who was an improver's third on his Australian debut on Friday, backed in from $3.60 to $3.20 with Australian bookies.

While Purdon had no luck with the draws for Super Sunday, arch-rival Cran Dalgety was thrilled with the barrier for Texican (1) and Its Onlyforyou (three) in their finals.

Both will now start favourite, even though neither are noted for their gate speed. But they do have the services of driving freak Dexter Dunn, who seems very at home racing at Melton.

As well as the 15 New Zealand-trained representatives at Sunday's meeting there are at least three New Zealand-owned horses now trained in Australia. One is Auckland Tiger Tina, who is unbeaten in Australia in four starts for Sydney trainer Darren Hancock and is the second favourite for the mares' pace.

Three-year-old trotter Triumphant Monarch, now trained in Victoria, is third favourite for his final, while Victor's Delight, usually trained by Pukekohe's Steven Reid but on loan to Victoria, is a chance in the mares' race.

She is part-owned by All Blacks Kieran Read and Andy Ellis, as well as former Commonwealth Gold medallist Dick Tayler.

- NZ Herald

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