Purdon not keen for Akuta to take on gun Aussies

By Michael Guerin

The new Trans-Tasman pacing rivalry of the flying four-year-olds may be a long way from seeing any resolution.

Because champion trainer Mark Purdon admits dual open class Goup 1 winner Akuta is almost certain to stay home for the rest of 2023 so not go head to head with any of Australia’s glamour boys.

Purdon has barely travelled a horse to Australia since Covid and has openly not been a fan of the old fashioned Inter Dominions being run early in the summer.

Add that to the clash of races like The Nullabor and The Race by Grins and the fact many Kiwi trainers want to spell in winter after the Auckland Cup races like the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile, and their lead-ups, make the most appeal to trainers like Purdon.

While he still has a wonderful, established open class star in Self Assured, Akuta has emerged as the new open class force albeit without the hype of the Australians like Leap To Fame, Catch A Wave and Captain Ravishing.

“I’m happy with that, happy to just let him race and not get involved in comparing him with other horses,” says Purdon.

“I am very proud of what he has achieved racing very good horses but I have also really liked watching the Australian horses too.

“Grant’s horse (Leap To Fame) is a horse I have seen quite a lot of and he is a very good horse.

“I think he might be the best over there and might turn out to be the best in Australasia but so much can change and there are so many different types of racing these days.

“I haven’t thought too much about the Inter Dominions but Akuta’s main aim will be the New Zealand Cup and after that I’d say if Ian (Dobson, owner) wants him to go to Australia it might be more likely be for Victoria and/or Sydney.

“That is a long way away though and a lot can change between now and then.”

Akuta and Self Assured are not even back at the All Stars stables that Mark these days shares with son Nathan as they are in Cambridge doing their prep work on the water walker at Margaret Park.

“We have them there and (unbeaten filly) Millwood Nike,” says Purdon.

While Trans Tasman rivalry is great for harness racing and sometimes captures the interest of those in other codes, pacing on both sides of the Tasman will have plenty to promote in coming months without the flag flying.

The Eureka for the Aussie four-year-old boys is shaping beautifully for the first Saturday in September while back here Copy That trying to win his third NZ Cup against the Purdon’s pair and a good support cast will capture plenty of eyeballs.

Before then Purdon is sharpening his thoroughbred training skills, with three of the yearlings he purchased at Karaka in January having now been broken in by Danny Frye and in work at the All Stars.

“I am really enjoying the new challenge,” says Purdon.

“Some days I wonder what I am doing going back to the start but it is something I have always wanted to have a go at.

“So at the moment I am concentrating on them and Nathan is in charge of the harness team but I am stepping up that involvement soon as we have a couple of pacers who will be back racing in late August.”

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