Family affair in very first Roy Purdon Memorial
By Michael Guerin
Champion horseman Mark Purdon has a very special desire to want to win the main pace at Alexandra Park tonight but fears his superstar pacer Self Assured could spend much of the race chasing.
Rival drivers like David Butcher are hoping he is right.
Purdon co-trains three of the six starters in the first running of the $75,000 Roy Purdon Memorial, the race named in honour of his legendary father who died in February.
Purdon’s brother and fellow Hall Of Fame trainer Barry has Bad To The Bone in the 2200m standing start while brother-in-law Tony Herlihy will drive Mach Dan and all three men would love to win the Listed race. Mark is the most likely though as he will partner hot favourite Self Assured, who has already won open class pacing’s new Triple Crown of the NZ and Auckland Cups and The Race but that level of success means he faces a 20m backmark tonight.
“He is very well but over 2200m from the backmark I can him having to really chase because horses on the front line like Bad To The Bone and Kango could run hard to try and beat him,” warns Purdon.
“I think the best case scenario is us is settling back with a horse like South Coast Arden and getting a cart into the race on his back. If that happens we can win but it might be harder than people think.”
Self Assured will also be having his first standing start since the New Zealand Cup in November but while he used to be hit and miss from behind the tapes Purdon doesn’t believe that will be a factor tonight.
He and training partner Hayden Cullen also have Mach Dan and Bettor Twist in tonight’s race, with Bettor Twist likely to get a nice run close to the speed but Mach Dan not well off on the 10m handicap line.
Butcher is one rival driver happy to help make Purdon’s prediction come true, with Kango off the front line and at his best when able to step and keep running.
“I think this week is his real chance but whether he is good enough to beat Self Assured I am still not sure,” says Butcher.
“Our fella has got better all season and is far more hardened to open class racing now and I think he is closing the gap on the best ones.
“But he can pace a half (800m) in 55 seconds and be hard to catch but the problem is the absolute best horses like Self Assured can produce sub-54 second sectionals if they have to and it is hard to beat horses like that.
“So we might be in front but if he (Self Assured) gets a fair run into the race he might be too fast anyway.”
While the Roy Purdon could develop into a game of catch-me-if-you-can tonight’s group 1 Anzac Cup for the trotters may be decided by the attitude of Tony Herlihy driving Bolt For Brilliance.
The 2200m mobile looks a straight two-horse race between Sundees Son and Bolt For Brilliance with the latter’s only realistic winning chance if he can get in front (likely) and then stay in front of Sundees Son (unlikely).
If Bolt For Brilliance leads and gets an easy time he has a shot at winning but at what cost whereas if he leads then trails Sundees Son he is all but guaranteed second and goes into next Friday’s $250,000 Rowe Cup without a headache.
And, of course, Sundees Son may simply be good enough to sit parked outside him and still win so Herlihy may decide there is no need to do anything too heroic tonight.