Racing: Underrated Ohoka Punter takes out A$200k feature

By Michael Guerin

Champion driver Tony Herlihy. Photo / Greg Bowker
Champion driver Tony Herlihy. Photo / Greg Bowker

Champion driver Tony Herlihy would be content to never drive his former stable star again.

Because if The Iceman never gets in the sulky behind Ohoka Punter again, it means he has kept on earning the big bucks in Australia.

The underrated pacer won the richest race of his open class career when leading throughout on a bog track in the A$200,000 Blacks A Fake in Brisbane on Saturday night.

The former dual Derby winner is now on the verge of becoming a millionaire, a mammoth achievement considering dodgy legs have cost him so much of his 4- and 5-year-old seasons.

Just six months ago, Ohoka Punter was battling to make an impression in the red hot open class scene in New Zealand so Herlihy sent him to Australia to be campaigned and he has barely seen him since.

Not that he minds, as he owns a quarter share in the 6-year-old who has won nearly $350,000 in that time.

"I thought he was better placed over there because he only really had the Easter Cup to race in here," said Herlihy. "And if he keeps winning he will stay over there. He heads to Victoria now and then probably the Inter Dominions in Perth."

The son of Bettors Delight has become a career-launching horse for young Nathan Purdon, the son of champion trainer Mark Purdon.

Nathan has spent time working for trainers in three different states of Australia and has honed his skills, seemingly having inherited his father's ability to get horses to run for him.

Purdon is moving to Victoria next week to take up a role with exciting trotting trainer Anton Golino and Ohoka Punter will join him.

"The Interdoms in Perth are the goal and I'll offer Nathan the chance to take him there and keep training him if he wants," says Herlihy, New Zealand's most successful ever reinsman.

That means Ohoka Punter is increasingly unlikely to return for the New Zealand Cup on November 8, for which he is the $15 sixth favourite.

While there are no immediate plans for Ohoka Punter to return home, Purdon is planning to move back to New Zealand next year, where he would be a powerful addition to the All Stars stable, as if they need the help.

The disappointment of Saturday's race was Christen Me, who stopped sharply on the very wet track and while he could be forgiven for that performance his glory days seem a long time ago on present form.

- NZ Herald

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