Duchess Megxit set to continue Purdon-Phelan's amazing run

By Michael Guerin

Training legend Barry Purdon remembers the moment he decided to launch his renaissance.

It was eight years ago when the Hall of Fame trainer with nothing left to prove, decided he was sick of watching other trainers win the races he wanted to.

“I wasn’t enjoying being beaten,” says Purdon, “I have had a great career but I knew I wasn’t finished and I had a good young training partner in Scott (Phelan) and a wonderful team around us.

“But were weren’t winning the major races as much as I would have liked and I thought that came back to the horses we were buying.

“So I decided to be more active at the sales, go after the ones we wanted, within reason.

“I knew if we did that and trained them well and looked after them like we always have we could get the results I wanted.”

That strategy started a snowball effect that has become an avalanche of winners at the highest level this season.

He and Phelan have won a feature race most weekends they have contested one this year, with the team’s stars winning over $2million worth of races since December.

It doesn’t quite rival Purdon’s record-breaking days when he would take NZ and Auckland Cup winners and Miracle Mile heroes Chokin and Christopher Vance to the races in the same float.

But allowing for the changing nature of trans-Tasman harness racing and the horses he has on his South Auckland property, Purdon is training as well as he ever has in his storied career.

“You need the horses but you also need the people,” he explains.

“Scotty is now such a big part of the partnership it almost doesn’t need pointing out anymore but we have great staff right across the board.

“Then we have bought a lot of the horses we want for good owners and Dean (Shannon) has come on board and been a wonderful supporter.”

So is Purdon training any differently as he approaches 70 next year?

“Not really. I stick to the same fundamentals as I always have but I know we look after our horses very well.

“They all get walked in the afternoon, brushed until they shine and well fed.

“We still feed oats like we used to in the old days but these days they are mixed in more with pre-made feeds, which are very good.

“But the basics are still the same. Look after the horses and they will look after you.”

The results are staggering and that run should continue at Alexandra Park tonight as Duchess Megxit is red hot for the $140,000 Magness Benrow Sires’ Stakes Final.

“She is a very good filly and has a perfect draw so she has to be hard,” says Purdon.

Opening at $1.85, Duchess Megxit was $1.65 before key rival All You Need Is Me was withdrawn, then shortened into $1.28 and could start $1.15 tonight.

Merlin and Sooner The Better are in the paddock and Mach Shard waiting for next week’s Auckland Cup so the Purdon/Phelan stable can’t win the $50,000 Roy Purdon, named after Barry’s legendary father.

But they can win the $50,000 Young Guns Trot, with Barry saying there is little between Meant To Be (stronger) and Higher Power (better manners).

Don’t Stop Dreaming is the obvious in the Roy Purdon if the race is run to suit but any of the eight starters could win depending on standing start manners, a rarity in open class pacing.

Muscle Mountain has the class and form edge even off a 15m handicap in the $60,000 Anzac Trot while whoever ends up in front out of Paramount Kiwi and Empire City after 400m of the Sires’ Stakes Trot will hold the aces.

Barry Purdon (and Scott Phelan’s) amazing last 5 months :

Dec 10, 2023: $250,000 NZ Derby (Merlin); $110,000 Ace of Diamonds (Duchess Megxit)

January: Largely no feature harness racing.

Feb 16, 2024: Alex Park feature pace with Mach Shard; beaten a nose in both 3-year-old Harness Millions

March 1: $55,000 Alabar Classic (Cold Chisel).

March 9: A$100,000 Ainsworth Free-For-All at Menangle (Merlin)

March 22: $200,000 Northern Derby (Cold Chisel)

April 4: $60,000 Cambridge Flying Mile (Merlin)

April 12: $1million Race by Grins (Merlin)

April 19: Won three age group races in one night at Alex Park

April 26: $110,000 Taylor Mile (Mach Shard at $155)

May 3: $110,000 Messenger Pace (Mach Shard at $21).

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