It’s not often you see a nine-year-old turn from consistent big-race performer to genuine star.
But that’s exactly what Barry Purdon has done with Pembrook Benny in the last two months and even one of New Zealand’s best trainers can’t put his finger on where the improvement has come from.
“We haven’t really done anything different with him I’m just putting it down to a little bit of luck. He could have won quite a few races but he seems to have just been one of those horses that has just missed quite a few times,” Purdon said.
“Having said that he hasn’t really drawn well this season but things have just gone right for him in the running but he’s really happy and on top of his game.”
Even following his shock New Zealand Free For All win, Pembrook Benny’s trainer declared his travelling days were over and there wouldn’t be a trip to Australia.
However with his form turning around, so too did Purdon’s attitude.
After going on to again knock of the Kiwi’s most promising commodity in Christen Me, Purdon started dreaming of a Hunter Cup.
“I wasn’t going to bring him to Australia again but he’s just been going so well and there is nothing really for him anywhere so we thought why not? We’ll give it a go,” he said.
“Everything is falling into place. He ran a terrific race in the New Zealand Cup so the ultimate distance of the Hunter Cup won’t worry him.”
The change to Free For All conditions this season has helped draw together one of the best fields in recent times but that hasn’t scared off connections.
14 runners and the promise of genuine speed on is something that will be right up Pembrook Benny’s alley but the one stumbling block might well be the race favourite.
“If it’s a hard run race you’d think it would suit us so we just hope we have a bit of luck in running but I must say it’s a very good field.” Purdon said.
“One on one I’d have to say Christen Me is a bit better than us but a horse race is a horse race.”
Christen Me is currently the $5 TAB fixed odds favourite but ‘Benny’ is hot on his heels as the $6 equal-second favourite.
The Ballarat Cup winner Restrepo ($7-$6) and last year’s Victoria Cup winner Caribbean Blaster ($8-$7) are the only two horses to find support in the early betting.
By Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)