Purdon gunning for fifth Chariots win

By Adam Hamilton

Master trainer Barry Purdon is growing in confidence he can add to his fantastic Chariots Of Fire record.

Purdon won three of the first five Chariots Of Fires at the old Harold Park track – Ginger Man (1995), Franco Hat Trick (1998) and Holmes DG (1999) – then added a fourth at Menangle with Our Sky Major in 2015.

He’s back, now in partnership with Scott Phelan, chasing a fifth victory with two runners – Its Merlin and Sooner The Bettor – at Menangle on Saturday night (11.40pm) .

“It’s been a special race to us,” he said, “I remember those early days at Harold Park for the Chariots, Miracle Mile and Derbys … those were great days.

“It’s nice to be back across and part of the big races.”

And this is certainly a big race, arguably one of the strongest Chariots Of Fire fields of all time.

“Last year was fantastic with Catch A Wave and Captain Ravishing so good at the time, but this field has to be right up there with them,” he said.

“It’s a tremendous field, so strong.”

Before we chat about the opposition, let’s delve into Purdon’s two runners.

“I couldn’t have asked for any more from (Its) Merlin last week,” he said. “I was so proud of him, especially that last 40 or 50m when he really dug in. I was thrilled. It’s a long straight there when you’ve done a lot of early work.

“I’m sure he’ll benefit from the run, his first at Menangle, and he’s come through it really well and trained strongly since.”

So, what about barrier seven?

“It’s ok, but not great, especially with some of the other main chances drawn inside him,” Purdon said.

“I’ll leave it to Zac (Butcher, driver). I guess he’ll have to come out with them, have a look and try to drop in somewhere.

“There’s a lot of speed under him. Hopefully they overdo it a bit.”

Purdon joked he would love to swap Its Merlin’s draw with the pole where Sooner The Bettor will start from.

“He (Sooner The Bettor) gets out really quickly. I’ll leave the tactics to Gavin (Fitzpatrick, driver), but he’ll have options,” he said.

“He ran really well coming off a sit two starts back (at Menangle), then I thought he had his chance in front last week. He’s done that before, sort of knocked off a bit in front.”

Purdon finds it hard to split his brother Mark’s horse, Don’t Stop Dreaming, and Jason Grimson’s newbie Frankie Ferocious as the hardest to beat.

“They’re both very, very good,” he said, “Mark’s horse is obviously going really well, but I was taken by Jason’s horse the other night. The way he got off the gate so quickly and did it easily at the finish. He looks very fast.”

Purdon has won five Miracle Miles and will certainly consider running Its Merlin and/or Sooner The Bettor should they get an invite from the Chariots.

The final Miracle Mile field will be announced on Saturday night with the barrier at 2pm NZ time on Sunday.

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