- 02 March 2015
By Adam Hamilton
Champion trainer Barry Purdon thought so much of Sky Major’s Chariots Of Fire win, he didn’t hesitate to confirm a quick back-up for Friday’s Auckland Cup.
All of the decades of Purdon polish have come through in Sky Major, who has continued to develop and now looks a genuine Grand Circuit star of the future.
His Chariots Of Fire win was the best he’s ever gone and shown strength to match the brilliance he’s always boasted in spades.
“We probably can’t beat Adore Me in Auckland, but he’s ready to go in those sort of races now,” Purdon said.
“I was so proud of him today, to sit parked and beat a really good field like that.
“His Harness Jewels win was very big, but this was a step-up again to do all the work and win in quick time.”
Sky Major spent much of the race outside his main danger Bling It On, who led, while the other major player, Isaiah, stalked the pair.
It was clear at the top of the straight Sky Major had Bling It On covered and as hard as Isaiah tried to come off his back and challenge, Sky Major found plenty for Zac Butcher.
Sky Major posted a 54.7sec last half, capped by a 26.5sec last 400m to beat Bling It On by 2.6m with another metre away to Isaiah in third spot.
They ran the mile in 1min51.5sec.
“It’s great to have another really top horse, one who I think will take me back on the Grand Circuit,” Purdon said.
There was an hour or so during Inter Dominion day when Gavin Lang he would forever play second fiddle to Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen.
And he could easily be forgiven for thinking so after his drives Delight Me (Oaks) and Beauty Secret (Ladyship Mile) ran mighty races, but were simply blown away by Purdon/Rasmussen runners in Fight For Glory and Adore Me.
“Yeah, I said to Natalie after Adore Me’s win ‘if I can keep running second to you today, I’ll be doing well with how your horses are going’,” Lang said.
“I really thought Delight Me was a great chance of winning the Oaks, but Fight For Glory was too good. Then Beauty Secret ran the race of her life, but got thrashed by Adore Me.
“As hopeful as I was with Ideal For Real, Hug The Wind had the better draw and I knew it’d be hard.”
But Ideal For Real was awesome. He managed to sit outside and nab Hug The Wind in the last stride of an epic battle down the long Menangle straight.
Incredibly, he was able to run a privately-timed 25.6sec last 400m at the end of 2400m and snatch victory by a half head in a 1min55.8sec mile rate.
Ideal For Real was the “follow me” horse from the Victoria Derby series when he went super in a heat and was poleaxed in the final.
He then went to Menangle superbly won his heat and final.
Co-trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin have found themselves yet another outstanding young prospect.
Hug The Wind was from disgraced after being bustled out to lead from the pole, while Cran Dalgety’s Art Union was an honest fourth.
Anthony Butt continues to find reasons why moving to Australia from New Zealand was an inspired decision.
The latest came when he teamed with his mate and main Aussie backer, trainer Brent Lilley, to win the Group 1 Tabcorp Trotters’ Cup (3009m) at Menangle on Inter Dominion day.
They combined with former European trotter Kvintet Avenger, who has been the most fantastic advertisement for Lilley’s training skills.
It a race that became a gruelling war of attrition, Kvintet Avenger called on all his stamina to grind out a neck win over stablemate Kyvalley Blur in a 2min2.9sec mile rate for the long trip.
“Gee he dug deep there. He’s so tough. He just kept giving for me,” Butt said.
“It’s a huge credit to Brent. He’s done a fantastic job with this horse.”
Kvintet Avenger originally started his racing in this part of the world with Tim Butt in NZ, but didn’t have the impact he and Anthony had hoped.
That and the fact he was better placed in the Aussie handicapping system prompted a move to Lilley’s barn.
“I like him as soon as I got him. He arrived only a T2 so he was able to quickly win his way through the grades,” Lilley said.
“He’s never going to beat the Stent’s and Keystone Del’s, but he’s still getting better and he’s very tough.
“He got a good run today and just kept grinding away.”
There must have been at least a small part of Geoff Webster left wondering what could have been after Inter Dominion final day.
Webster snared a surprise second placing in the Grand Final with Flaming Flutter running the race of his life behind Beautide.
And Webster’s Hunter Cup runner-up, Franco Ledger, who was staggeringly overlooked for a wildcard in the Inter Dominion final then arrogantly won the “consolation” – the $100,000 Group 1 Bohemia Crystal free-for-all.
Throw in the fact Webster openly declared Franco Ledger would have been a “much better chance in the final” than Flaming Flutter.
“It was a fantastic day for the stable,” Webster said. “Flaming Flutter running second to Beautide is almost like winning it. He’s so honest, but that was a great run by him.
“And Franco Ledger is like this work in progress. I was disappointed he didn’t make the final and I think he showed everyone why.
“I’m not saying he would’ve beaten Beautide in the final, but the way he won his race, he’s been done himself proud in it.
“There’s so much to look forward to with both horses. I think there still improvement to come from both of them.”
Franco Ledger was eased off the gate from barrier seven in the 2400m race.
Webster settled him second-last in the running line then had to come three-wide without cover from the 800m.
Despite the daunting task, he roared past the leaders and won left those chasing in his wake.
Franco Ledger won by seven metres in a 1min55.4sec mile rate.
The seven-year-old has now raced seven times for Webster for three wins and that second in the Hunter Cup.