Racing: Have Faith In Me rated world class

By Michael Guerin

Trainer’s trip to the United States convinces him superstar pacer could easily match it with the big three.
Have Faith In Me (left) paced a record 1:47.5 winning the Miracle Mile in February. Picture / Harness Racing Victoria
Have Faith In Me (left) paced a record 1:47.5 winning the Miracle Mile in February. Picture / Harness Racing Victoria

Champion trainer Mark Purdon is adamant his superstar Have Faith In Me is as good as any pacer in the world.

And he should know, after having just watched the best in North America live.

Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen have just returned from a month-long trip to the United States and Canada during which they spent time at the stables of leading trainers Jimmy Takter and Ron Burke.

They also saw the elite US free-for-all pacers race, headed by the big three of Always B Miki, Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete.

While Purdon has huge respect for the trio, he is certain his Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me is at least as good.

"They are very, very good horses, especially those three, but our horse is just as good. I have no doubt about that."

It is hard to argue with Purdon, who is never one for overrating his horses.

The top US free-for-allers can break 1:47 for a mile but they spend their entire careers being honed for magical miles, whereas Have Faith In Me paced an Australasian record 1:47.5 winning the Miracle Mile in February only a few starts after winning a 3200m standing start Auckland Cup.

Fully integrated into US-style racing with one of their wider, faster sulkies behind him, Have Faith In Me would clearly be a sub 1:47 pacer.

"I am sure he would be but I don't think there is any great desire to race him up there," says Purdon.

"If he is the best down here this season, which we hope he will be, then he can win more money than he could up there because up there he would be one of three or four with similar ability."

Purdon had his first real look at Have Faith In Me in a month this week and is certain the 4-year-old has thickened and should be stronger next season. But before you start logging on to the TAB website to take the $3.40 on offer for him in the New Zealand Cup, be warned - while that is his first goal it is by no means certain.

Purdon and Rasmussen have the three New Zealand Cup favourites, the other two being Lazarus and Smolda, and will let the trio tell them who will be suited to the New Zealand Cup on November 8 or who might be better off in Perth at the Interdoms, which start two weeks later.

"At this stage we will bring all three of them up and start racing mid-September with the Cup as their aim," he explains.

"But if any of them didn't feel like they were right for the Cup then we could change tack.

"Have Faith In Me, for example, if he started to gallop away from the stands in his lead-up races we could favour the Interdoms, because they are all mobile, especially as he would be on the unruly in the Cup, which is like being off a handicap.

"So we will aim them at the Cup and see what happens."

Purdon was thrilled and surprised by just how much Lazarus has filled out during his spell, which will hopefully help him bridge the gap from champion 3-year-old to open class performer by Cup time.

Purdon says his time away from his Rolleston base gave him and Rasmussen a chance to learn how trainers like Burke and Takter go about their business as well as consider their own as they stare down another premiership win.

"At some stage we would like to have less horses but after the numbers we got from the yearling sales this season I'd say we are going to have about the same size stable again next season.

"And the trip was great but we don't have any aspirations to try training up there.

"We have a lot invested in the property down here and you can't just up and move that to theStates.

"So while I'd like to go up there and visit those top trainers again, because you always learn things, I don't see us campaigning horses up there any time soon."

- NZ Herald

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