News & Events

Encouragement and warning from Purdon

By Michael Guerin

Champion trainer Barry Purdon had words of encouragement and words of warning for punters assessing two of his stable stars at Alexandra Park tonight. Which means back Five Card Draw in his comeback race but maybe steer clear of Raydon in his.

The pair make their seasonal debuts in what are their first steps toward the New Zealand Cup carnival, with Five Card Draw targeting the Sires’ Stakes Final. He resumes as our leading juvenile from last season courtesy of three group one wins, a record that will see him start a commanding favourite in tonight’s Sires’ Stakes heat. While Purdon has made a career out of not screwing his horses down too much early in their campaigns, preferring to peak them for the big races, Five Card Draw has plenty of motivation to start his season with  a win.

“I’d love him to win this week and qualify automatically for the Sires’ Stakes Final,” says Purdon.

“That would make planning his lead-in to that race a lot easier, whereas if he doesn’t qualify this week he might have to fly to Christchurch for a heat next week, which is not ideal.”

With that in mind Purdon gave Five Card Draw a searching last 800m in tricky conditions at the Alexandra Park workouts last Saturday.

“He came his last 800m in around 56 seconds so he is about as ready as we could have him for this without having a race under his belt.”

That, coupled with Five Card Draw’s barrier draw, should be enough to get him home. He has barrier four and he has the gate speed to head forward and dominate, especially as Sires’ Stakes heats tend to be uncompetitive affairs as drivers drive to qualify for the final. So with his key rivals drawn outside him, Five Card raw should lead and be able to sneak the win even lacking recent racing, with any price around $1.80 tempting.

Purdon also has Topshelf Attitude in the heat but admits from a wider draw he will struggle to beat Five Card Draw.

“But he is a lovely horse improving all the time and he hasn’t finished winning yet.”

That leaves Cyamach and Mexicano, who will both improve on last Friday’s runs, as the logical dangers to the favourite.

While Purdon is expecting a win from Five Card Draw tonight, he thinks Raydon is vulnerable off his 40m handicap in race nine. He won fresh-up last season but Purdon warns he is not as forward this time in.

“I think he might need a run and it is very hard to win here fresh-up off a handicap in this grade.

“I am not saying he can’t win, but I’d be a bit careful with him.”

The star of the night will actually wait until the last race to strut his stuff, with NZ Cup entrant Devil Dodger facing a 25m handicap over 2200m. That would usually be too tough to overcome but in only a small field, and with his good standing start manners, Devil Dodger should still win providing the race doesn’t become too cat-and-mouse. His danger appears to be Statesman, who was luckless here last Friday and has a great 2200m record and good standing start manners.