A Faithful Derby

By Matt Markham

Mark Purdon is no longer making excuses for why Have Faith In Me keeps beating Follow The Stars.

That’s simply because there are none.

Adore Me’s little brother added a New Zealand record breaking effort in the New Zealand Derby to his stunning season – erasing any final doubts that lingered as to who the best three-year-old pacer in the land is.

He stopped the clock in a flying 3.09.2 bettering Auckland Reactor’s national mark on 3.09.4 which he set in the same race.

The win means he is now just the third horse to win the Sires’ Stakes, Yearling Sales Final, the Northern Derby and the New Zealand Derby in the same season - following in the footsteps of Il Vicolo and Courage Under Fire before him.

But it was more than manner in which he ran straight past a horse as good as Follow The Stars that had people talking.

Purdon put it into context best as he still pondered over what had just unfolded in front of his own eyes.

“We are looking at a horse who is doing exceptional things at the moment,’’ he said.

“My horse (Follow The Stars) couldn’t have gone much better, we have no excuses.

“At the moment he is just the better horse, he’s so in the zone.

“Coming off the bend I thought it was going to be a good battle, but my horse went from travelling like a winner to feeling a little flat pretty quickly as the other horses went straight past us.’’

The fact that Follow The Stars paced the 2600 metre mobile in 3.09.5 would suggest he hasn’t gone bad at all.

In fact that would win him every Derby ever run other than last night’s and Auckland Reactor’s effort in 2008.

After victories in the Welcome Stakes last week and the Northern Derby a fortnight before that many were expecting the tables to be turned on the All Stars stablemates this week with Follow The Stars drawn perfectly at two.

When he burned to the lead early it was always going to take something special to beat him and Tim Williams was always confident he had that bit of special in front of him.

“He’s come that far in the last few months, he’s constantly improving.

“I wasn’t too worried about going around and sitting parked because he handled it so well last week.

“He did surprise me with how easy we ran past Follow The Stars – I didn’t even pull the ear plugs.’’

There were a few nervous moments early on though with Have Faith In Me showing there is still some immaturity in his system, as the field herded up behind the mobile.

“You just have to take it a bit careful with him sometimes, I left it until as late as I could to score up.

“That’s the scary thing about him though, he’s actually got a lot of improvement in him I think.’’

With the three-year-old Pacer of the Year title wrapped up – All Stars can now focus on a Jewels attack with the speedy pacer.

There he will more than likely meet with Follow The Stars again and Brilliant Strike who finished a good third last night will be there too.

Purdon and his training partner, Natalie Rasmussen picked up three winners for the night with Willow and Waikiki Beach both saluting the judge.

The latter was victorious in the Welcome Stake – a race Purdon has dominated for the past decade and a half.