Veteran pacer upsets for Kiwi connections

By Michael Guerin

Champion trainer Barry Purdon may not have had the Queensland Derby night experience he was planning on a few months ago but his Saturday night at Albion Park came with a bonus.

Purdon was planning to take Northern Derby winner Merlin to the Queensland carnival but those plans changed with the outstanding young pacer was sidelined in the autumn.

That meant he missed not only the Queensland Derby won so brilliantly by The Lost Storm on Saturday night but the Rising Sun won dramatically by Leap To Fame.

Considering the strength of the winners they would have been incredibly hard races to win but Purdon got an unexpected victory anyway as he and wife Katrina attended the final night of the Constellations.

“We still share in the ownership of Mach Shard who won the first race,” said Purdon.

“He has been a lovely old horse when you think he won the Breckon Young Guns all those years ago and he is still racing well as an eight-year-old.”

The Mach Three gelding triumphed at $48.60 and $9.10 for driver Jack Callaghan, ahead of Nerano and Loyalist, with the trifecta paying a whopping $30,307.60. It was career win number 17 for Mach Shard, after he had nine wins in this country before heading across the Tasman in February 2021.

While Merlin couldn’t be there the reports are good as he is now back in work and has grown and filled out during his break.

“He looks great and while he won’t be nominated for the NZ Cup his big aim at the back end of the season will be the Derby at Addington.”

Purdon and Phelan are far closer to racing their strong team of juveniles including Cold Chisel, Escape Artist and Always B Elite, the trio who trifectaed the Young Guns Final back on March 24.

“They are getting ready for the Sires’s Stakes heats up here in about five weeks and they are very promising horses,” said Purdon.

Purdon has never been scared to support the early two-year-old races and has won the Young Guns Final the last three years and was pleased to hear of two big juvenile racing announcements last week.

The first, as part of Harness Racing New Zealand's 2023/24 Funding Document, was the injection of potentially $1.5million into juvenile racing over the next two seasons, most importantly with $12,000 of bonuses for a juvenile’s first win - $8000 to the owner and $4000 to the breeder.

“I think it is a great way to encourage more trainers to race their two-year-olds and I hope we see a lot more of it,” says Purdon.

The other big announcement last week was a new A$500,000 juvenile slot race as part of the Constellations next season, a race that could prove very tempting for the trainer or trainers of the leading New Zealand juveniles at a time when our industry goes through a winter feature-race hibernation.

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