Nathan Purdon to make his mark
By Adam Hamilton
Nathan Purdon has settled in across the ditch in Australia and is raring to go.
The former Kiwi horseman has 14 pacers in work, is backed by some heavy-hitting owners and has recruited another talented former Kiwi in Stuart McDonald as his right-hand man at his Lara stable, about 45 minutes outside of Melbourne.
Throw in the fact he’s bought seven yearlings in Melbourne in recent weeks – five at Nutrien and two from Australian Gold – and the foundations are firmly being built.
“It’s a young team with nine of the 14 we’re working being two-year-olds, but a couple of them already look quite promising,” Purdon said.
“Zeus Dan will make a nice horse, but time will be his friend. He ran second at the (Ballarat) trials on Tuesday and will keep improving with time.
“Lanai, who is a Captaintreacherous like Zeus Dan, ran third is his trial. He’s very professional youngster and should do a good job when he heads to the races soon.”
Purdon has already produced yet another Captaintreacherous, Capt Me, for a second and third in three starts.
Zeus Dan, as his name suggests, is raced by leviathan owner Danny Zavitsanos, who lives in Geelong, just down the road from Purdon’s stables.
“Danny’s got a couple with me, Mick Harvey (part-owner of King Of Swing) has got Captn Me and two others and then there’s (big US owners) Gordon Banks and Marc Hanover. They’ve got six with me, including Lanai,” Purdon said.
Purdon loved his father, champion horseman Mark visit and give some guidance for just over a week earlier this month.
“There’s obviously nobody better than him to have a look how we’ve got the place set-up, how the horses and going and all that sort of thing,” Purdon said.
“It was great to see him so relaxed. Stepping back has certainly been good for him. He looks like the weight of the world is off his shoulders.
“I remember when I was a kid at school he asked if I was really sure I wanted to go down the training path because you have to put everything into it and often the rewards aren’t always there for the amount of work. But I was never going to do anything else.”
Purdon’s inspiration for the move across the ditch came during his three years with Cran and Chrissy Dalgety where he noticed how many owners wanted to sell their horses to Australia after just a few starts.
“We’d put 18 months into getting horses right, they’d have five, maybe 10 runs and the owners would want to move them on because of lack of opportunities. They’d hit their mark too fast,” he said.
“It’s different here. A one or two win horse can win 10 races in Aussie if you place them right, but it’s hard work and long hours with so many meetings spread all across the state (Victoria).
“Victoria is also really competitive with so many good trainers.”
Purdon said he was pleased with the set-up at Dean Braun’s Lara stables where he is based.
“I spent about 12 months here working with Dean back in the Ohoka Punter days and I liked the stables and the area. I won’t be going anywhere in a hurry from here,” he said.
“The passion for the sport feels really strong over here.”
Purdon unveils his best “tried” horse when former top Kiwi mare Spellbound has her first Aussie run in the good mares’ race, the Ian Daff Memorial, at Melton on Saturday night.
“She’s probably in the best four or five mares in NZ when she’s right, but she lost her confidence a bit in those really strong races,” he said. “She’s doing everything right at home and I was going to trial her, but Dad drove her and said she’s probably ready for a race.
“It’s a bit hard to line them up and she’s drawn wide, but she’s got gate speed and it looks the right sort of race to kick her off in.”
And it gives stable foreman Stuart McDonald a chance to jump in the sulky at Melton.
McDonald joins Purdon after almost a decade in Western Australian, broken-up with a six-month NSW stint about four years ago. He’s driven almost 350 winners in that time, most notably the 2020 Group 1 Fremantle Pacing Cup in record-time on Caviar Star.
“I’d had the past three-and-a-half years with (Gary Hall) Senior and got into cruise mode a bit, stale if you like. I needed a change-up and this sounded exciting,” McDonald said.
“I’ve only been here a couple of weeks and my main job is the foreman role, but I love driving and it’s great to get on Spellbound and drive a couple of Nathan’s nice ones at the trials (Ballarat) on Tuesday.
“I also drove one for Anton Golino at the trials and he’s indicated I could get some race drives for him.”