Kango just too good in Roy Purdon Memorial
By Michael Guerin
Kango may no longer be a one-trick pony, even if it is a pretty good trick.
The mammoth Cambridge pacer used that trick, leading and outstaying his rivals, to down hot favourite Self Assured in the $45,000 Roy Purdon Memorial at Alexandra Park on Friday night, with Heza Sport a close up third on his track debut.
Those same tactics have won Kango a Franklin Cup and Kaikoura Cup, those valuable races just below the absolute best races like next Friday’s Auckland Cup.
Kango has of course run third in last season’s Auckland Cup so he is knocking on the door of a really major open class win and trainer Arna Donnelly and driver David Butcher agree the big horse is getting better.
“He is faster than he used to be, he has developed more speed,” says Donnelly.
“So if he can run third last year why can’t he go better this year. We are going there to win next week, you have to.”
Butcher says that gold medal may still be beyond Kango just yet but the gap between him and the best horses is closing.
“Self Assured and Copy That can’t go on forever and he is improving so maybe next season will be even better for him,” says Butcher.
While Kango was too good on Friday, Self Assured was brave after being parked the last lap and hitting the lead at the 150m before peaking soon after.
“He just came to the end of it and peaked so he should be better for next week,” said Mark Purdon.
Purdon had to scratch Akuta from the race on Friday morning after an abscess burst out and he says the next two days will determine whether the Taylor Mile winner can take his place next Friday.
Old Town Road was a solid fifth after an early gallop and his connections are certain he will improve for the Cup next Friday.
While the All Stars missed out in the race named after the Purdon family patriarch, they got two of the other features.
Millwood Nike, who was under a cloud after trackwork on Thursday, was amazing in the $130,000 Sires’ Stakes Fillies Championship.
She was driven conservatively early and then had to sit parked but simply overpowered her rivals to make it 14 unbeaten starts and she now starts to enter the conversation about our greatest ever fillies.
New Zealand harness racing has been blessed with some stunning three-year-old fillies, mostly recently Amazing Dream and Adore Me, and while Millwood Nike has a long way to go to trump them and some of the other glamour girls of yesteryear, she heads for her winter spell with no obvious filly challenger in sight.
It would surprise nobody if she finished 2023 unbeaten in 20 starts, which would be a New Zealand record.
And earlier the stable won the first Young Guns Trotting Final when We Can Have It All made the most of a score-up mistake from hot favourite The Moonstone to just down the flying filly in a race where both first and second earned enormous respect.