Barry Purdon happy with draws
By Michael Guerin
If Barry Purdon had been allowed to pick his own draws for A$600,000 worth of races at Melton on Saturday night he would have ended up exactly where he is.
Which suggests Mach Shard in the A$500,000 Hunter Cup and Belle Of Montana in the $A$100,000 Ladyship Cup give the training legend a legitimate shot at a huge group one double.
Purdon flew into Melbourne yesterday to oversee the final preparations for the pair, one of who will start favourite and the other will go close to that position.
Mach Shard has drawn barrier two in one of the most even Hunter Cups of recent years and will have plenty of fans after overcoming a second line draw to win the Casey Classic, the final lead-up at Melton last Saturday.
He shares the front line with fellow Kiwi pacers Chase Auckland and Triple Eight while A G’s White Sock’s chances may have taken a hit by him drawing the second line.
One of the shocks of the field was former NZ Cup winner Thefixer missing the Hunter and heading to a support race after he disappointed in the Casey last week.
“Barrier two looks ideal, you would take that every day of the week,” said Purdon of Mach Shard’s draw.
“He should be handy in the running line from there and he was very strong to the line last week so I think he has a real chance.” Mach Shard has been one of the constant improvers of the open class pacing season, finishing second in the Inter Dominion Final at Alexandra Park, and consistently hitting the line well.
Unless driver Zachary Butcher elects to try and cross to a leading or trailing position early, Mach Shard looks set to be handy in the running line on what should be a good tempo and has been elevated right into the top chances in the race.
But as good a chance as he is, Belle Of Montana is clearly Purdon’s best hope on the night returning to the track where she won the Victoria Oaks last season.
She has barrier one in the $100,000 Ladyship Cup and Purdon says that is perfect as she has the speed to use it.
“She can get off the gate well and it gives Zac options,” said Purdon.
Her gate speed will be aided by Purdon leaving hopple shorteners in for the outstanding mare even though a malfunction from them caused her to gallop twice on New Years Eve.
“That was just one of those things that day,” says Purdon.
New Zealand will also have huge representation in the A$250,000 Great Southern Star where the key talking point is Natalie Rasmussen replacing partner Mark Purdon as the driver of Oscar Bonavena.
Oscar Bonavena recorded his worst career performance in the Dullard Cup last Saturday and Purdon thinks he left the high-class trotter short of race fitness, something he has promised to fix for this Saturday.
But he will still leave Rasmussen to drive him, Chase Auckland in the Hunter Cup and Smooth Deal in a support race after nothing seemed to go right for the stable last Saturday. Oscar Bonavena has drawn barrier four, which is good but not great as Inter Dominion champion Tornado Valley is drawn directly inside him and looks certain to lead so the young star is going to need to come from behind some serious horses if he is to make the Great Southern Star his first major career win.The fields for the two major group ones out of Melton on Saturday night is.—
Race 6, 10.32pm NZ time, A$250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star, 2760m mobile.— Red Hot Tooth (1), Massive Metro (2), Tornado Valley (3), Oscar Bonavena (4), Sky Petite (5), Sundons Courage (6), Tough Monarch (7), Dance Craze (8), Margaret Ruth (9), Majestic Man (10), McLovin (11), Temporale (12), Wobelee (13).
Race 8, 11.30pm, A$500,000 Hunter Cup, 2760m mobile.— Alta Orlando (1), Mach Shard (2), King Of Swing (3), Chase Auckland (4), Cash N Flow (5), Triple Eight (6), Lochinvar Art (7), Our Uncle Sam (8), Code Bailey (9), Bling It On (10), A G’s White Socks (11), San Carlo (12), My Kiwi Mate (13).