By Michael Guerin
Training legend Barry Purdon may not win either Inter Dominion final at Alexandra Park tonight but his horses might hold the keys to who does.
Purdon rivals his brother Mark for trainer of the carnival as he has three in tonight’s $500,000 pacing final and Marcoola in the $150,000 trotting group one.
That is a fair leap from just a month ago when he didn’t even train Marcoola or dual series heat winner A G’s White Socks, while Mach Shard was jarred up after a New Zealand Cup shocker and his other pacing finalist On The Cards had just started his campaign with a third in a moderate race.
So Purdon has taken two stable newcomers and two $150 chances and squeezed the absolute best out of them to give them a shot at the title. That, after all, is what horse training at its most basic level is all about.
To turn that training genius into something a little more spendable Purdon’s trio in tonight’s $500,000 pacing final are going to need to be in the right place at the right time and for that A G’s White Socks, Mach Shard and On The Cards all have a very valuable weapon: gate speed.
They are all on the front line surrounding hot favourite Ultimate Sniper and while anything could happen inside them it looks better than even money one of Barry’s horses will lead early.
On The Cards, from barrier four, is the most likely to cross to the pegs but he could easily be joined by Mach Shard and/or A G’s White Socks if they can beat Ultimate Sniper off the gate. That is very possible as Natalie Rasmussen is often neutral for the first 400m of major races.
The other side of that coin flip is Ultimate Sniper attaching itself to On The Cards, following it straight across and pretty much waltzing to the lead, which would give it the luxury of a $100 chance on his back and maybe seal the fate of Ultimate Sniper’s rivals.
Purdon says his three are all well, have handled the rigours of the series and are ready to run up to the best form.
“We know it is going to be hard to beat Ultimate Sniper, when horses start racing like he has during an Inter Dominion they tend to hold that form and I think he will too,” says Barry.
“So maybe he will be too good but our horses should be up there and handy and that will give their drivers options.”
If an A G’s White Socks or Mach Shard is given free rein to charge forward and can cross Ultimate Sniper then they get their chance to lead and almost certainly trail after so any one of Purdon’s three could sneak into a quinella or trifecta spot.
But while it is hard for the master trainer to be too confident of beating Ultimate Sniper, he is more upbeat about an upset in the trotting final.
Marcoola was always likely to be a better horse for tonight than in the heats, with the week off a chance for him to put on weight and Purdon to train him, rather than just look after him.
He has worked well this week and after driver Sheree Tomlinson impressed Purdon with her patient handling of Marcoola in his heats, the boss is happy for her to power up the big boy tonight.
“I will tell Sheree I am happy for her to drive him forward if he feels like that,” says Purdon.
“He is fit and ready and we realise if we let Winterfell get his way in front then he might get it too easy so we will probably be rolling forward.
“I couldn’t be happier with him and with a horse like Majestic Man fast off the gate too there could be some pressure early.”
Purdon has trained 31 winners in just 101 starts this season, giving him a higher strike rate than even the All Stars, and should snare another group one before the Interdom Finals are even run tonight.
He has speed freak mare Belle Of Montana headlining a four-pronged attack on the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts and even though she has drawn the second line it shouldn’t matter.
Belle Of Montana is so fast she almost certainly would have made the pacing final had she contested the Interdom series and she is racing horses tonight who wouldn’t have.
She sat parked to beat most of them last Friday and Purdon says she will be fitter tonight.
“She will definitely come on from last week and while she has the second line she is the only horse starting there so Zac (Butcher) has options. And she is probably good enough she could parked and win if she had to.”
Where: Alexandra Park
When: Saturday night, first race 5.45pm
What: $500,000 Interdom Pacing Final, $150,000 Interdom Trotting Final, $100,000 Queen Of Hearts, $100,000 Peter Breckon Memorial, $50,000 Alabar Classic, $40,000 Lincoln Farms Classic.
Support card: Oscar Bonavena, Enhance Your Calm and Tickle Me Pink in the free-for-all trot, Miracle Mile favourite Self Assured in race nine.
The Punt: Tote and Fixed all races, $10,000 included in First4 pools for Interdom Finals, head to head markets and special bet options, all at tab.co.nz
Watch: Live on Trackside 2 (Sky 63) from 5.14pm including live interviews with drivers in pre-race warm ups.
On track: Free admission, dining packages sold out but Macs Bar (Party Zone) open on the infield as well as seating still available in stand, Lyell Creek and Alex Park. After party after racing programme finishes.