Purdons' Pair Impresses at Alexandra Park
by Michael Guerin
On a milestone night Mark Purdon’s star three-year-olds couldn’t have looked more ready for their Oaks and Derby assignments than they did at Alexandra Park on Friday.
But an even bigger name is set to miss next Friday’s meeting as the feature-race season starts its inevitable twists and turns.
Purdon recorded his 2500th New Zealand training success earlier in the night at Addington when Bollinger won, joining his brother Barry as the only other New Zealand harness trainer to get to that number.
But there was no time for celebrating as Purdon was on the track at Alexandra Park doing what he does best.
Millwood Nike and Sherlock won the two three-year-old features on Friday and both could even start favourites in the classics next week judging by the strength of their performances.
Millwood Nike is certain to be red hot in the Northern Oaks after an easy victory over an improved Advance Party in the Peter Breckon Memorial on Friday, her no-fuss win taking her unbeaten record to 10.
She was barely under pressure as she sat in the one-one, launched on the home bend and quickly gobbled up her rivals before holding out Advance Party, with the shock of the race being the mid-race gallop of Kahlua Flybye.
“It really couldn’t have gone any better for her and she will probably only meet mostly the same fillies next week,” said Purdon.
Millwood Nike’s times and sectionals were almost identical to those paced by stablemate Sherlock when he won a stacked Sires’ Stakes heat but he was even more impressive.
The son of Vincent had to sit parked for the last lap and looked in trouble at the 220m mark as he ducked in while Merlin swooped and looked set to run past him but when Purdon got after Sherlock at the 100m mark he found more and won easier than his margin would suggest.
“I was impressed by him,” says Purdon.
“I thought Merlin was going to run straight past us but my fella kicked really well.”
That saw Sherlock overpower leader Sooner The Better late with Merlin peaking on his run in third while the winner’s stablemate Sinbad cost himself a winning chance up the passing lane by galloping briefly at the 150m mark.
Such was the impressive nature of the win Sherlock must surely challenge Merlin for Derby favouritism for Friday depending on their draws.
While Purdon and son Nathan will have huge chances in the two group 1s next Friday last season’s Derby winner Akuta will be a surprise absentee from the meeting.
He is having some routine maintenance work done on his legs this week and Purdon thought it was better to miss Friday’s City of Auckland Free-For-All.
“It it nothing serious and won’t affect his campaign for The Race by Grins at all but with some work being done on him this week to have him at his best for the autumn he won’t be ready for Friday.”
The Purdons will have Self Assured resuming in the same free-for-all but he was allowed to miss the Pukekohe workouts on Saturday morning to be trained solo instead.
“With the rain I didn’t want to go in a competitive workout and just do what we wanted this morning and I will give him a harder workout on Monday.”
As for the career 2500 domestic wins, Purdon was as always looking forward and deferring the praise.
“It is a great number to get to but what I enjoyed most about the night was the three-year-olds racing so well and the team in the South getting those three wins because Nathan has been doing all the work down there and it was great to see him getting those rewards.”