All worth while
By Michael Guerin
Nights like this make it all worthwhile for Mark Purdon.
Because it not the money or the glory that keeps Purdon away from home all summer.
It is the satisfaction he feels when things go right and Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen can get the best out of their horses and do the right thing by their owners.
And things went all the way right on Saturday night a Menangle.
The All Stars trained four winners, three at group one level and most importantly the quinella in the A$1 million Miracle Mile as Spankem outsped stablemate Thefixer.
It was Purdon’s first driving success in the Mile, a race his brother Barry and brother-in-law Tony Herlihy had both driven the winners of before so Mark was thrilled to join the family honour roll.
“It is a race I’m glad I finally won because it is one I always wanted and it would have annoyed me if I retired one day not having got it,” says Purdon.
But personal glory is not what motivates Purdon to spend three tiring months on the road, with the Hall of Famer admitting his gruelling summer has sapped him.
“It has been hard,” says Purdon.
“I think the only time I have been home since early December was for the yearling sales and while it is great to have all these horses and to win big races traveling all the time isn’t easy.
“I think people see nights like what we had on Saturday and see the glamour but it has been a testing summer in some ways.
“But when you see the horses race that well and the thrill the owners and the staff get out of it, it is very, very satisfying.”
As dominant as horses like Our Princess Tiffany (NSW Oaks) and Our Dream About Me (Ladyship Mile) were, Purdon still needed his rarest of training skills to get them there.
Both of that pair and Spankem were in doubt for this carnival just three weeks ago and part of Purdon’s mastery is his self-belief to change his plans at the last minute to suit how a horse feels.
Three weeks ago Spankem was coming home to New Zealand with a hoof abscess, now he is the Miracle Mile champion, with delayed flights also helping.
“I wasn’t surprised he won because his work last week was so good and his gate speed was a huge asset,” says Purdon.
“And he loved the big track and the speed racing. But he still had to be good to hold out Thefixer.”
Spankem will now have a short break while Dream About Me retires a last-start group one winner. Our Princess Tiffany was breathtaking and has raced back to the head of the fillies ranks while All U Need Is Faith got a deserved listed win.
As for Purdon, he will make it part of the way home (Christchurch), flying into Auckland today to put the finishing touches on his team for Derby night at Alexandra Park this Friday.
The machine rolls on.