Harrison does the job for Purdon
By Garrick Knight
Pulling on the colours that have won more races than any other in New Zealand history has an unmistakable aura about it.
Just ask Alicia Harrison, who wore Barry Purdon’s famed silver grey with blue spots when winning Thursday night’s $12,000 Te Awamutu Cup behind Mohs Em Down.
“It was very cool to drive for Barry in those colours,” the Cambridge junior driver said in the wake of her upset victory.
“I feel privileged to have someone like that support me.”
With a penalty-free win in the offing with a junior driver in the cart, and Purdon’s employee Nate Delany driving the stablemate Ball Of Art, Harrison got the call up.
And she took the opportunity with both hands.
In a high-quality, full field from a standing start, against predominantly senior drivers, she drove the perfect race to record a narrow win.
It wasn’t without a few early jitters, though.
“He was rearing up at the start quite a bit and I was really worried about timing it right.
“I thought he went really good last week and after going through all his races I noticed that he can’t do much work.
“So, I thought if we stepped well and found cover, he’d be a nice place chance.”
Mohs Em Down landed in the one-one and, thanks to early errors by the favourite, Bettorstartdreaming, the well-fancied Baileys Knight, and Ball Of Art, he was perfectly poised to take advantage.
Harrison has come a long way in a short time – she already has a national junior drivers’ championship to her name – and says competing against the senior drivers is actually less daunting than her younger peers.
“To be fair, with the senior drivers, I think they are better to race against because you know their patterns and how they are going to drive.
“Though it can be harder on a slower one because they will push you out more.
“Whereas with the juniors, they are so unpredictable you never know what is going to happen.
“And that makes it hard to formulate a plan before a race.”
Two races later, Harrison drove her second winner on the card, Young Conqueror, for employer Arna Donnelly.
After a wretched run with draws, he came up with the coveted ace on his home track and Harrison made every post a winner, stacking the field up before sprinting home in 56.3 and 27.7 to get the chocolates.
“He never got out of second gear, really. I kind of thought someone would come around and put some pressure on but it didn’t happen.
“I was pretty much told that from the draw only a bad draw would get him beaten.
“The boss had done her part so it was all on me.”
Harrison has proven herself to cope well under pressure and that was evident once again with a well-judged and heady drive.
It was Young Conqueror’s first win in the north some joining Donnelly’s stable in April.
“I think he can be competitive in the better grades at Auckland,” said Harrison.
“He’s just had no luck with the draws and it’s bloody hard work trying to get in to the race over a mile from a bad draw.
“Even going up in grade, running along at a strong tempo, I think he’ll be alright.
Earlier in the night, Megan McIntyre made a winning debut in the amateur driver ranks when reining home Pegasus Kommander at double-figure odds for Kumeu trainer, Tim Vince.
It was the start of a race night double for Vince, who also prepared Simon to win later in the evening.