Dickie gets Group One drive at Melton

by Adam Hamilton

Josh Dickie always knew success in Australia would be a slow burn.

Dickie moved to Australia late last year with partner Sammy Kilgour to try freelance driving and train a team out of Kilgour’s property not far from the Melton track.

They are working 10, but Dickie admits snaring drives in Victoria – by far the toughest “school” in Australian harness racing – is not easy.

Another former Kiwi Nathan Purdon experienced exactly the same thing when he had a stint driving in a few Australian states a few years back.

And that’s why Purdon was keen to help out a mate and a fellow Kiwi.

“I had time in a few Australian states and was able to pick-up enough drives to keep me busy in most of them, except Victoria. It’s really tough here, there’s so much depth in the driving ranks and most of the biggest stables have their ‘go-to’ drivers,” Purdon said.

“When the chance came along to try and help Josh out I wanted to and that’s how the drive on this filly (Be My Star) came about.”

Be My Star, bred to pace but turning heads as a three-year-old trotter, is $1.75 favourite in tomorrow (Saturday) night’s $50,000 Group 1 Vicbred Home Grown Classic (1720m) at Melton.

“I had those weeks in Sydney with a few horses (headed by Spellbound and Amore Vita) and Josh helped out with this filly and drove her in a few trials for me,” Purdon said.

“She isn’t the easiest filly to train or drive and Josh seems to get along well with her and he’s always been good with trotters.”

Be My Star has pleasantly surprised Purdon and Dickie winning her first two starts and faces a new challenge from inside the back row (gate eight) compared to leading in her races so far.

“I really appreciate Nathan giving me the drive on this filly,” Dickie said. “She’s come a long way very quickly. Neither of us thought she’d be in a Group 1 race this soon. It’s not a race Nathan had planned for her,” Dickie said.

“She’s got a nice turn of speed and she’s getting stronger with the racing, too.”

Purdon admits her pacing breeding provides some anxious moments early in her races.

“It’s that first 200m or so when you have your heart in your mouth, but Josh has done a great job on her,” he said.

Be My Star is by Captaintreacherous out of former US mare Smyrna Duruisseau, which makes her a half-sister to Mark Purdon’s former champion juvenile pacer Follow The Stars.

The connection runs deeper with one of the Purdon families long-time supporters, Kevin Riseley, buying Be My Star as a yearling.

“She was always coming to me, but we thought as a pacer,” Nathan said. “But Patrick Ryan breaks-in all the babies for Kevin and Carol (Riseley) and told them this filly was reluctant to pace so he tried her trotting and she took to it well.

“She was green and galloped a lot early on, but after about five trials the penny started to drop. The ability was always there, though."

Purdon is hoping to cap a big week with Be My Star after learning his now stable star Spellbound had snared a spot in the inaugural $900,000 The Race at Cambridge on April 14.

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