Belle of the track - Auckland Preview

By Michael Guerin

Training champ Barry Purdon starts to push to the Harness Jewels at Alexandra Park on tonight.

Because while one of his star four-year-olds in Sky Major is cooling his heels, Purdon brings his outstanding mare Ideal Belle back to the races in tomorrow night’s main handicap.

And after missing the start of the season, she needs to start winning sooner rather than later to win her way to the Jewels, her logical seasonal aim.

“That is what we are aiming for, for sure,” says Purdon.

“So that will mean picking up some good money in the next two months to get her there.”

Last season’s NZ Oaks winner was also a narrowly beaten second in the Jewels to Venus Serena but caught her back legs over a fence when being prepared for the Breeders Crown in August, the deep cuts initially threatening her career.

At her best last season she was not far behind Venus Serena and set a national 1700m mobile record so is clearly the best horse on show tomorrow night.

It is great to have her back because she is a very good mare and when the injury happened it looked pretty bad.

“But it is not like a tendon issue which can come back. It is healed now so should be fine.”
Purdon knows better than most how hard it can be to win in the intermediate grade fresh-up at Alexandra Park, even though the A1 version of Ideal Belle would be way too good for this opposition.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if she won but I just think she might need a race or two,” he offers.

“She is as fit as I can get her without a race but she is a big mare who has been off the scene for a long time so it will be hard.”

Tomorrow also presents a new challenge for Ideal Belle as it will be her first public standing start but Purdon says that does not greatly bother him as she has been solid from behind the practice tapes at home.
 The Hall Of Fame trainer also has Love Is A Drug in race four tonight, where she drops back from taking on the best fillies in the Oaks last start to something more her speed.

As for Sky Major, he is back jogging after the lung infection which ruled him out of the Auckland Cup last week, just five days after winning the Chariots of Fire.

"We are hoping to have him at the Taylor Mile and Messenger, where he will need a win or at least a couple of placings to get him enough money for the Jewels."

Tomorrow night’s meeting also sees high class three-year-old trotter Speeding Spur taking on the older trotters as he starts to count down to the Derbys.

He faces a tricky assignment from barrier one in the standing start but looks headed for the top and his manners and stamina have been strong points so far this season.