Purdon dreaming of third Hunter Cup triumph

By Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon can’t wait for two things this week.

Firstly, it’s the draw for the $450,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup and then it’s the race itself.

Purdon is warming to his chances of training a third Hunter Cup winner with his emerging star Don’t Stop Dreaming.

The freshly turned four-year-old impressed everyone, including his master trainer, with a slashing second to proven Grand Circuit topliner Better Eclipse in the Casey Classic at Melton last Saturday night.

And Purdon knows he has more to give.

“He blew up a bit after the race, suggesting he’d take a bit from it,” he said.

“That’s not unexpected because it’s been a month between runs and he’s a stallion now.

“I’m sure the run will bring him on and he’ll be at his top for this week.”

Purdon, who is in Melbourne himself for the first time since 2020, felt getting so close to Better Eclipse – beaten just a half head after having to come three-wide around the winner – was a terrific formline.

“He’s probably the best pacer in Victoria at the moment,” he said.

“If we can get a good draw, I think we are right in this (Hunter Cup) now.”

Better Eclipse is a multiple Group 1 winner, ran second to Leap To Fame in last month’s Brisbane Inter Dominion final, and passed $1 million in career earnings with last Saturday night’s win.

Purdon won the 2015 Hunter Cup with Smolda and did it again with Lazarus in 2018.

He and co-trainer/son Nathan had planned to tackle the Hunter Cup with Akuta, but switched plans when he was injured.

Instead, they opted to take the lightly raced but exciting Don’t Stop Dreaming to the Cup rather than Saturday night’s $100,000 4YO Bonanza at Melton.

That will leave them having to contest a qualifying lead-up race at Menangle to ensure the four-year-old gets a spot in the Group 1 Chariots Of Fire on March 2.

Don't Stop Dreaming is into $7 second favourite for the Hunter Cup.

All the rage is Queensland sensation Leap To Fame at $1.40 pre-draw. He's booked on a flight from Brisbane to Melbourne tomorrow (Tuesday) night.

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