Nelson Pitstop Proves Fruitful for Akuta
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
A Nelson pitstop has proven fruitful for exciting pacer Akuta.
The three-year-old colt is on his way north to tackle the Listed NZB Standardbred Harness Million 3YO Colt and Gelding Final (2200m) next month and trainers Mark Purdon and Hayden Cullen thought the Nelson Pine Nelson Classic FFA (1609m) on Sunday was an ideal starting point for their charge.
The standout juvenile of last season was sent out a $1.40 favourite following three pleasing trials and he duly delivered for punters after a textbook drive by Blair Orange.
Akuta’s victory pleased co-trainer and part-owner Mark Purdon who had to watch the race on his phone en route to Southland.
“I was on my way down to Invercargill but I was thrilled,” Purdon said.
“I pulled over and watched the race on my phone and I was thrilled with the way Blair handled him and the way he won.
“He is very exciting and I have been thrilled with his training and preparation for this.”
While Purdon was pleased with Akuta’s training, finding a suitable starting point for his campaign proved more difficult, but he was pleased to land on the Nelson FFA on his way north to Auckland.
“I have been concerned with trying to find a race for him with his 66 rating, but this worked out perfect,” Purdon said.
“I like starting a horse out over a short distance first-up, it doesn’t knock the stuffing out of them.
“It worked out well with this free-for-all being on his way north.”
Purdon is looking forward to heading to Auckland himself next month for the inaugural Harness Millions night, which follows a similar structure to the Karaka Millions twilight meeting in the thoroughbred code.
“We have got the race on February 12th (Harness Millions) and I did want to give him a couple of runs at Auckland before we take that big one on. The plan is working perfectly so far,” Purdon said.
The Rolleston horseman purchased the son of Bettor’s Delight out of Broadfield Lodge’s 2020 New Zealand Bloodstock Standardbred National Yearling Sale draft for $170,000 and stayed in for a share with well-known owner Ian Dobson.
“He ticked all the boxes – good conformation, a good head and eye on him. He was well put together,” Purdon said.
“Ian (Dobson) wanted me to come in on a couple of other horses in earlier years and we were committed elsewhere but when I purchased the horse he said ‘if I take him Mark you better come in too’. It has worked out well.”
Purdon was also pleased with the efforts of stablemate Shan Noble who put in a gutsy performance to run third to Akuta at Nelson on Sunday.
“Shan Noble is very honest,” Purdon said.
“I thought it was a good effort to run 3000m two days ago and then today he probably looked a bit tired in the last 50m, which he probably is entitled to be.
“It will be good to give him a little freshen-up now.”
Meanwhile, Purdon has headed south to watch over the final preparations of a number of his key runners ahead of Wednesday’s northern Southland meeting, headlined by Oscar Bonavena in the Gr.3 Pryde’s Easifeed Southern Lights (2700m).
“He is the main one I have come down for. I will train him in the morning (Monday) and see how he seems,” Purdon said.
“It will be a tough race with Sundees Son in there but he does seem to be in a good place.”
Oscar Bonavena could be met in the race by stablemate American Pride, however, that call is up to a veterinary examination.
“American Pride is there but we will have to get him checked out tomorrow because he has got to have a vet’s clearance before he can start, so it will all depend on what the vet thinks tomorrow,” Purdon said.
The All Stars stable will also be represented by Pace N Pride in the Gr.3 Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Trotting Cup (2700m).
“Hopefully he should get his chance and he has been racing well,” Purdon said.