By Michael Guerin
Champion trainer Mark Purdon finds himself in an unusual position heading into tomorrow’s $540,000 IRT New Zealand Cup at Addington.
And he says it is the right one.
Purdon, along with training partner Natalie Rasmussen, has trained five of the last six New Zealand Cup winners and even the year they got beaten it was by Arden Rooney, a horse they used to train.
Even more clockwork than them having the Cup winner is having the Cup favourite, with superstars like Lazarus getting as short at $1.40 when he won his second Cup in 2017.
Yet tomorrow the All Stars stable will have to make do with having the second and third favourites in Self Assured and Spankem and Purdon says they both deserve to be behind northerner Copy That in the market.
“I don’t think is one of those years we can go into the race confident, definitely not as confident as some other years,” says Purdon, who will drive Self Assured.
“We have three winning chances (Ashley Locaz is the other) but none of them are any better than Copy That.
“He is racing as well as our horses so he deserves to be favourite.”
Copy That and Self Assured have the likely advantage of being drawn the front line in tomorrow’s 3200m standing start whereas Spankem starts off the second line.
That and Self Assured’s best performances this season, which have been stunning, make him the stable’s best chance but his Achilles heal has been on display for all to see.
Self Assured has missed away at the start more often than he has begun safely this campaign and Purdon admits he has run out of ideas.
“We have exhausted everything we know to get him going away,” says the Hall of Famer.
“So now it is up to him. I rate him 50-50 to step away okay and if he does I think he can lead and win.
“But if he doesn’t then I think he will lose his winning chance.”
The irony of the Self Assured puzzle for punters tomorrow is his richest career win came when he stepped brilliantly and led throughout in the Auckland Cup last December.
If punters knew Self Assured was going to pack those manners in his gear bag you could feel confident he is in a fair fight with Copy That.
But if he misses away not only does that cost him ground but also gives Copy That a shot at a less-contested lead as most of the others on the front line would more than likely concede him that role.
Which is why on Cup Eve, Copy That is the TAB’s tightening $2.80 favourite and Self Assured has drifted to $3
First published in the New Zealand Herald.