Winter surprise on the cards

By Michael Guerin

Champion trainer Barry Purdon could have a winter surprise for harness racing fans when racing returns.

Because while many of us think of winter racing being for battlers or beginners, Purdon could have an Inter Dominion finalist ready to go.

Like many of the northern trainers contacted by HRNZ, more especially those with private training tracks, Purdon expects to have horses to race in early June.

“I want to support racing when it comes back, even though I haven’t been big on racing many horses through the winter in recent years,” says Purdon.

“But we have to get racing started again so I will race the horses we have here who are ready to go.”

Purdon says his June racehorses could number at least four and include high class pacer On the Cards.

“He will be ready to go by then, maybe not for the first meeting if they talking the last weekend in May but not long after that,” says Purdon.

“I hope trainers are open to racing their better horses and we get races off the ground.

“So I’d be happy to race him as long as there were suitable races.”

Purdon says he has a couple of other handy lower grade horses and a two-year-old he would be keen to start as well.

His thoughts match those of many in the north who simply want to get back to racing in what initially looks likely to be a week-about schedule between Alexandra Park and Cambridge.

Both tracks are set to trial Wednesday night meetings in the first month or so of racing’s comeback but HRNZ Chief Executive Peter Jensen says Friday night will predominantly remain harness racing’s main night of the week.

“We are very pragmatic about the calendar for the first two months until the end of the season and it does give us a chance to see how other options work,” says Jensen.

“Yes, harness racing will definitely return to Alexandra Park and Addington but without crowds for a while those clubs won’t be getting that hospitality income so a Friday night is not quite a crucial.

“But we also all need to keep an open mind about what lies ahead for harness racing as does everybody in racing.”

While Purdon will have an open class horse ready to go in June his two biggest guns, Belle Of Montana and Mach Shard, are spelling and set to come back in early May.

“They went for a spell once races like the Jewels (Belle Of Montana) and the Easter Cup (Mach Shard) got cancelled so they have been spelling a lot earlier than they usually would.”

Because of that both horses, like so many others in the open class ranks, could be back racing in late August for more of a traditional, longer New Zealand Cup build-up if that it what Purdon wants.

And of course, if the Cup itself looks the same as it has in recent years.

Purdon also has some yearling fillies being educated while his male yearlings have already been broken in.

“I think we will end up with 10-12 juveniles for next season.”

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