Barry Purdon returns to racing on Thursday

By Michael Guerin

Champion trainer Barry Purdon is happy to be heading back to the races but he admits he would like to be taking twice as many horses.

Purdon returns to his home track at Alexandra Park on Thursday night for the first horse racing meeting in Auckland since lockdown began way back in late March.

The meeting has attracted only the six races, possibly as the trainers of many of those who resumed at Cambridge last Sunday would be reluctant to back up just four days later after such a long break from racing.

But that doesn’t affect Purdon as he was only aiming two horses at the meeting in Major Jellis and On The Cards, with the latter not getting a run in the night’s major pace.

He as eliminated for being too highly assessed and while disappointed Purdon can see both sides of the argument.

“I feel for his owner Dennis Thompson because he kept the horse going through the winter,” says Purdon.

“So I would have liked to see him get a start and I have always believed if there is a race for your horse and he is good enough to start he should get a start.

“But I also understand the other side of the argument because he would have been by far the tightest assessed horse in the race.

“So even if he had to have a concession driver on I would have liked to see him start but in this case, I can see why he didn’t get in.”

On The Cards would have added some comeback class to the meeting but he may have endangered the rating 58 to 77 mobile pace from getting off the ground as even with a preferential draw he would have been on the front line and probably crossed his rivals, led and won.

It also would have meant an Inter Dominion finalist starting off the same mark as a horse like Dress Sense, who while unbeaten has only won two minor races at Cambridge and couldn’t be asked to race a horse like On The Cards off levels marks.

As Purdon said, two sides to an argument and not as easy one to solve at this time of the year during Covid-19 comeback mode with a small already elite level horse pool.

Even without On The Cards, Purdon can still win the $12,000 pacing race of the night as he has Major Jellis drawn the ace and he beat On The Cards at the Pukekohe workouts last Saturday.

“He is going well and he has shown some gate speed in the past so he will be a good chance,” said Purdon.

The stable’s stars Mach Shard and Belle Of Montana have pleased Purdon early in their campaigns, with Belle Of Montana having her first hoppled run this time in on Tuesday morning.

“They could both be back racing in late August and I think I could have quite good numbers to be back racing then.”

While Thursday’s meeting will be a short and sharp return for the home of northern harness racing the feature trot has secured a nice field and will provide the highlight of the night.

One horse who won’t be there is Kratos, last season’s Breeders Crown champion who had been scheduled for a return this week but now needs a bone chip operation and a spell.

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