Big day in the career of Nathan Purdon

By Jonny Turner

Nathan Purdon can make his own mark and add to his family’s incredible harness racing legacy if Akuta can complete a perfect New Zealand Cup preparation at Addington on Tuesday.

Purdon is in search of his first win in the country’s greatest harness race, an event his father and training partner Mark has dominated over the past decade.

The casual harness racing fan may assume the younger of the Purdon pairing is very much the junior partner in their training partnership, but they might be surprised to learn how things really work.

Nathan and Mark officially linked up at the beginning of this year, with Nathan himself assuming he would be the understudy to Mark, who is undoubtedly New Zealand’s greatest-ever harness racing trainer.

But the senior Purdon had new challenges in his sights, taking on a thoroughbred trainer's license and a team of gallopers.

The meant he not only handed the running of the business side of their stable over to his son but also the daily responsibility of training their team full of stars.

How things have all panned out has even surprised Nathan.

“To be honest, when we first went into partnership, I didn’t think I would be doing this much. But Dad has really left the reins for me to run things,” Nathan said.

“Having worked for him for such a long time, I know what he would want and what sort of plan he would have for the horses going forward, so that has helped.”

Nathan has never been far from New Zealand Cup success.

He’s been a part of his father’s team during his run of winning six of the last nine editions of the great race, while uncle Barry and grandfather Roy’s names also line the New Zealand Cup history books.

But making his own mark is a totally different proposition for Nathan.

“It is a race you dream of winning right from when you are growing up. If we were able to win it, it would be a dream come true.”

The Purdon stable has the favourite for the 2023 New Zealand Cup in Akuta, who has been dominant in the race’s most notable lead-up events.

So much so that the pacer’s preparation can only be described as perfect.

“Hopefully, everything continues to go as well,” Nathan said.

“It is not often you get a full prep right from the first race where everything goes to plan,” “Early on, I thought the hard racing might have had an impact on him, but certainly with the way he has come through his races and his work leading into Tuesday, we couldn’t be happier with him.”

Mark Purdon returns from a driving suspension to take the reins behind Akuta on Tuesday. The champion driver will be out to win his seventh New Zealand Cup and to draw level with Ricky May who has the most wins as a driver in the great race.

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