Racing: Purdon determined to break from his father's shadow and make a name for himself

Kiwi racer Nathan Purden
Kiwi racer Nathan Purden

If you are a son of a gun, do you swing on your dad's coat-tails or take a deep breath and flee the nest?

Nathan Purdon, 20, son of the great New Zealand trainer-driver Mark, says fate made the decision for him when he was driving Slugem, one of three horses in a 2014 race in Cambridge trained by his father.

He made an error of judgment and it bugged him, pulling Slugem's ear plugs at the wrong time and having his horse break stride after hitting a wheel.

"I said to him (Mark) that drive proved to me I was not quite ready to drive his team," Nathan said. "The horse was going well enough not to have to pull the plugs.

"He respected what I said and he agreed with it without saying it. So I decided to come over here and see how I went."

The Purdon name is iconic in harness racing, carrying as much gravitas in New Zealand as Freedman or Cummings in the Australian thoroughbred world.

Mark and former Queenslander Natalie Rasmussen form New Zealand's leading stable.

The trail was blazed by Mark father's Roy, a 14-time New Zealand premiership winning trainer, and the distinguished bloodline creates both privileges and pressures with which Nathan is already well acquainted.

"It's both a blessing and a curse," said Purdon, who has linked with Chambers Flats trainer Ian Gurney after recent stints with Greg Bond in Perth and Dean Braun in Victoria.

"You are always aware you have big shoes to fill but the good thing is there is always someone there who is a very good source of help if you need it.

"Before I left, my father just said give it 110 per cent and you will make it.

"I did not fully appreciate how good my fathers team were until you drive other horses and use them as a yardstick.

"I have enjoyed it in Australia and the claiming system for young drivers is a lot better than it is at home.

"There are things you miss about home because we are a very close family and we go out to dinner all the time.

''I was never going to do anything else. I had my first drive in trackwork as an 11-year-old on a horse called Born Again Christian."

Purdon has driven around 80 career winners and bagged two wins and a third in his return meeting on Tuesday after a stint interstate.

There is sure to be plenty more on the way.

TOP GUN

Queensland may not boast the prizemoney of some other states but its top drivers remain the equal of any.

Shane Graham proved this in Sydney on Saturday with a nerveless drive on his father's horse Park Life which netted the $320,000 Australian Pacing Gold fillies final.

Graham waited quietly in a potentially treacherous pocket before surging late.

One false move and he would not have won the race.

MORE MACCAS

Expect to see another McMullen in the form guides.

Taleah, youngest sister of drivers Pete, Narissa and Dannielle, has applied for her race day driver's licence.

Taleah took her first trial drive earlier this week at Albion Park when she partnered Ireby Betty, who is prepared by Dannielle.

Other young drivers who have applied or gained their licence recently include Lachie Manzelmann and Leonard Cain.

BRISBANE BOUND

In-form Goulburn trainer Brad Hewitt is eyeing another Brisbane winter carnival campaign.

Fresh from his success last week at Menangle which netted a Group 2 double with Spare Me Days and Hez A Dude, Hewitt is keen to bring a strong team north.

Spare Me Days and Hez A Dude are tipped to make the trip along with classy pacers Tullow and Stanley Ross Robyn.

Canberra Raiders stars Jarrod Crocker and Sam Williams share in the ownership of many in the Hewitt trained team.

TOP CHANCE

Talented pacer A Good Chance is close to a return for Redcliffe trainer Donny Smith.

The four-year-old has not raced since winning at Albion Park back in August last year but trialled earlier this week.

The Mr Feelgood entire has won 10 of his 26 career starts while amassing more than $150,000 in stakes.

- news.com.au

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