News & Events

Newcomer is Purdon's best ABC bet

By Michael Guerin

In Melbourne

Even with the strongest pacing armoury in New Zealand racing history, Mark Purdon has opted for a trotter he had never sat behind just three months ago as his best bet of Breeders Crown day.

The champion New Zealand trainer goes into Sunday’s A$1.6million meeting at Melton in Victoria with four favourites, including three in the pacing races led by Border Control in the A$303,000 juvenile feature.

But he believes Cyclone U Bolt, a trotter he only started training two months ago, is his best winning chance. And that is even though he knows the Harness Jewels winner will have to cover more ground than his two most favoured rivals.

Cyclone U Bolt joined Purdon’s stable after winning the Jewels, having been purchased by big-spending Victorian owner Merv Butterworth. He has enjoyed a fruitful campaign since and looks clearly the best trotter in Sunday’s race. But drawn three on the second line he is going to need to be to come around the in-form pair of Aldebaran Shades and Triumphant Monarch, who look set to lead and trail.

Still Purdon is unfazed.

“The way this horse has been trotting this week I think he can still do the work and win,” he said.

“He is really in the zone and I couldn’t be happier with him.

“Coming wide and winning these types of races is never easy but I think he can do it.”

That recommendation should be all punters need to jump on the three-year-old and Purdon is only slightly less confident with Border Control and Fly Like An Eagle. Both won their semi-finals convincingly after showing gate speed last Friday and Purdon is unconcerned by reports Franco Nelson (drawn one to Border Control’s three) will try and hold him out at the start of Sunday’s richest race.

“Border Control has been leaving the gate really fast and I am definitely heading for the top,” he declares.

“I am not sure if Franco Nelson can hold us out but I think he would be far better off taking a trail.

“My horse is a complete professional and is ready to win so I think he is my best chance of the pacers I have in.”

Fly Like An Eagle faces a very testing draw in the three-year-old male pace but could be aided by one of his arch-rivals in Lets Elope. With fellow Kiwi rep Texican drawn the ace he has been plunged with bookmakers but he doesn’t have naturally high gate speed. Lets Elope, drawn barrier three, does and could well cross Texican early but would almost certainly look for a trail, giving Purdon hope he can leave fast with Fly Like An Eagle and get to the lead before Texican gets a full head of steam up.

“It is always hard to win a big race from the outside of the front line but it might work out all right for us early,” he explains.

“And I have the confidence in this horse to go forward because he is racing as least as well now as he was when he won the NZ Derby.”

But the confidence levels are not so high with his Northern Oaks winning filly Twist And Twirl, even though she was the star of the fillies semis last Friday. She has drawn the second line while local heroine Shake It Mama, who thrashed Twist And Twirl three starts ago, is drawn to get the lead.

“As good as my filly is going, if Shake It Mama gets an easy lead we will struggle to beat her.”

Meanwhile, Purdon has taken over the training of Australian star Sushi Sushi and will set him for the New Zealand Cup.