Knockout win for Oscar Bonavena
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Mark Purdon had a New Zealand Cup day to remember at Addington Raceway on Tuesday with six wins, but the one that stood out above the rest was Oscar Bonavena’s victory in the Group 1 Livamol NZ Trotting Free-For-All (1980m).
The Canterbury horseman, who trains the entire in partnership with Hayden Cullen, reined home the five-year-old to win his maiden Group One victory for Purdon’s father, legendary trainer Roy Purdon, and American-based expat Kiwi trainer Chris Ryder.
“It will be very special for him (Roy),” Mark Purdon said. “He is 94 now, but he still looks forward to the races and it will give him a great thrill to watch it.”
Drawn the outside of the front row, Purdon eased his charge to sit off a hot pace set by Majestic Man, who burnt early for the lead.
Purdon navigated his charge into the one-one behind Midnight Dash before driver Jim Curtin extricated Bolt For Brilliance off the fence to sit parked outside Majestic Man.
Turning for home Purdon guided Oscar Bonavena four-wide where he was able to show a blistering turn of foot to run down the leaders to win by 1-1/4 lengths over Bolt For Brilliance, with a further three-quarters of a length back to Majestic Man in third.
A talented youngster, Oscar Bonavena was purchased out of Phil Williamson’s barn after his runner-up effort in the Group 2 Sires’ Stakes 2YO Trot (1950m) but has faced a number of setbacks, which made Tuesday’s win even sweeter for Purdon.
“He has had a lot of issues along the way and it is hard to get them back to this level too,” Purdon said.
“I am very proud of him today. They went hard early which helped and he finished over the top of them.”
Co-trainer Hayden Cullen was also jubilant after the win given Oscar Bonavena’s past issues.
“He really deserved it, he has had a few niggles along the way,” Cullen said.
“He had a bone chip taken out and he had a cyst in a knee, just a few niggles there that held up his career a wee bit. He seems good at the moment so hopefully he will carry on.”
It was Oscar Bonavena’s third run this preparation and Cullen said he needed those first two hit-outs to have him hard-fit for Tuesday’s assignment.
“He has had a couple of runs under his belt this time in and he showed his true form today,” Cullen said.
“Mark and I have been very pleased with him. At that grade you need a few runs under your belt to be hardened to those better horses. He was third-up today and he went very well.”
Tuesday will be Cullen’s last Cup Day as official training partner with Purdon before he reverts back to his former stable foreman role, and he said it was great to notch his first Group One victory on Cup Day.
“It is a great thrill,” he said. “It is the day you want to win races on.”