Mark Purdon taking over training of Stylish Memphis

By Frank Marrion courtesy of the HarnessXpress

One wouldn’t find two more deserving winners when Bettor’s Heart won the Ladyship and Stylish Memphis the NSW Oaks within an hour at Menangle last Saturday night.

In recent months, Bettor’s Heart had been runner-up to Belle Of Montana in the Queen Of Hearts, to Princess Tiffany in the Premier Mares Championship and to Wainui Creek in the Breeders Stakes.

So the G1 success was thoroughly deserved and it was worth waiting for – the biggest stake of all at 200k, a new lifetime record of 1.49.7 for breeding and an invite into the Miracle Mile just to put the icing on the cake.

Bettor’s Heart had to come from behind Belle Of Montana and Princess Tiffany and literally flew the last bit to pick up Bettor Enforce right on the line.

This from a six-year-old mare who won one race last season and who seemed stuck in the R70s.

It was breeder-owner Wayne Higgs who thoroughly deserved the G1 success of Stylish Memphis however.

Between her and her sister, Delightful Memphis, Higgs had been second in a G1 on no less than 10 occasions in the last few years.

It happened to Delightful Memphis six times – five times to Spanish Armada and once to Partyon.

And that’s not counting a second to Spanish Armada in the rich 2yo Sales race and G2 Ladyship and a second to Bonnie Joan in the G2 Southland Oaks.

Stylish Memphis was second in two G1s in Auckland over Christmas to Amazing Dream and then beaten by Dr Susan in the Victorian Oaks.

“It was starting to get a bit embarrassing,” said Higgs this week.

“It was great to finally win one but it was straight back to work on Monday – that win will just pay the bills for the trip.”

Quite apart Higgs’ recent experiences as a breeder-owner, not many would have invested more into the game when he began as a trainer-driver some 20 years ago.

He bought cheap horses from all over the place and won 44 races in his second season, with the best of them being Benatom (7 wins) and Cam’s Legacy (5).

Later he had a good one in White Arrow, whom he drove in a New Zealand Cup, but fair to say Higgs never got close to winning a G1 in those days and he would eventually realize the futility of that game.

Ironically, the nemesis of Higgs and trainer Mark Jones in recent times, Mark Purdon, was largely responsible for the success of Stylish Memphis last weekend.

And Purdon will now train Stylish Memphis for the remainder of the season.

It might have seemed like Stylish Memphis, and Dr Susan for that matter, had gone to Australia to avoid the All Stars and that this latest development might look like a case of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’, but neither would be true.

“There was no plan to go to Australia at all, but when I was in Auckland at Christmas, I heard that Amazing Dream was heading back to Addington for the Sales race,” said Mark Jones.

“The only races coming up for Stylish Memphis were heats of the Fillies Series and two of those had restrictions.

“So I had a chat to Mark about looking after Stylish Memphis in Australia and he couldn’t have been more helpful.

“He was good enough to leave her in our name but he’s basically been training her for the last six weeks and he’s got her more settled now.”

This was well evident in the Oaks when Stylish Memphis posted a seemingly suicidal lead time of 53.5, but then Purdon threw out the anchor with a 31 quarter and a half in 60, before rating Stylish Memphis home in 56.4 to finish in a 1.54 mile rate for the 2400m.

“Giving her to Mark to train is a bit out of gratitude but mostly about having continuity in a top driver,” said Jones.

“We had Ricky May engaged but when he couldn’t do it, there aren’t any better around than Mark either.

“So what has happened – it’s just unfolded that way.”

As such it is looking like the remaining three-year-old filly classics could well be a battle between Purdon and Stylish Mempis, and Natalie Rasmussen and Amazing Dream.

Delightful Memphis was obviously a very good filly, but Jones says Stylish Memphis “has a touch more speed and brilliance and the racing in Australia has also toughened her up a lot”.

She has now raced 12 times for six wins and five seconds for stakes worth $229,000 and her only miss was a fifth at the Jewels in what was a very hot field in hindsight.

Ahead of her that day were Sweet On Me, Spellbound, Amazing Dream and Tiffany Rose and Dr Susan was sixth.

“She had a few niggles coming to the end of that campaign and we probably shouldn’t have started her, but it’s hard to forgo a 150k race on your back door.

“We also thought she was getting sold for big money and the vets had been stuffing us around.”

Stylish Memphis is the third Bettor’s Delight and fourth foal that Higgs has bred from Memphis Melody with her brother Memphis Tennessee being sold as a going two-year-old for good money.

Memphis Melody had earlier left six foals by either Artsplace, Art Major, Christian Cullen or McArdle, and only Harley Earl was a good horse.

Higgs has since bred a two-year-old filly by Bettor’s Delight in Classy Memphis, but she is “not in the same league as the other two”.

A yearling colt by Art Major is a lot more promising however with Higgs saying he is a better type than any of the Art Major colts he saw at the sales this year.

Higgs is still racing Delightful Memphis with trainer Nifty Norman in America, where she has just qualified for another campaign.

So far the now six-year-old has taken a record of 1.51.4 and won $508,000, having left Australia in mid-2018 with $280,000 in the bank.

Quite probably she will return home later this year to be a broodmare although Higgs will be guided by Norman on that.

Now it just remains to be seen whether her sister to can add some more G1s racing from the All Stars juggernaut, rather than against it.
– by Frank Marrion


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