'Orlando' has Sales Series at his mercy

12:27 PM 09 May 2014 NZST
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Alta Orlando - looks the one they all have to beat in tomorrow's rich Sales Series Final.

Depending on which side of the fence you sit, the fact Mark Purdon is already referring to Alta Orlando as a Derby horse is both exciting and concerning.

For the exciting two-year-olds owners; Neil Pilcher and Jim and Ann Gibbs the prediction is exciting.

However if you have a nice two-year-old pacer at home, who is showing enough potential to be a race horse next season, you’re concerned.

Purdon’s ability to spot quality stock at a young age and ear-mark them as potential age group stars is unparalleled, so when he makes such comments it generally pays to sit up and take notice.

The comment also speaks volumes for the chances of the exciting son of Courage Under Fire in tomorrow’s $200,000 New Zealand Yearling Sales Series Open at Addington.

Off the back of two impressive and rugged victories in his last two experiences, Alta Oralando is set to start a short-priced favourite in the Saturday afternoon harness feature and was yesterday as short as $1.40 on the fixed odds book.

And while there is no doubting he isn’t yet up to the standards of his unbeaten stable mate, Follow The Stars, Purdon suggests that in time, Alta Orlando has the potential to be a real star.

“He just continues to improve, and impress me,’’ Purdon said.

“And you would suggest by just looking at him that he is only going to continue to develop and fill out…he’s a real Derby horse in the making.

“I especially think once you see him over more ground he will be even better than he is now because he is such a tough, free-going type of horse.’’

That’s a pretty impressive recommendation from a man who has made a huge impression on the industry through his skills at producing quality three-year-old pacers, and it will be enough to have rivals tomorrow looking cautiously over their shoulders.

Drawn well in barrier two for the assignment, many would be expecting co-trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen to fire up the burners early, but Purdon suggests that might not be the case.

“He’s not the sort of horse you can barrel out of the gate just yet I don’t think.

“I would be a little hesitant to do so anyway as I don’t quite think he’s fool proof yet.

“But he has shown he can get around the field and try and out stay them, that seems to be his forte at the moment so I would expect something similar again this week.’’

Alta Orlando dominates the market at his $1.40 quote but there is good shopping on offer for both Express Stride ($5) and Say My Name ($5.50) considering their recent form.

Meanwhile tomorrow’s meeting will be without exciting three-year-old filly Willow who has potentially had her season prematurely ended through injury.

The Sires’ Stakes Fillies Championship final winner injured a hock during track work on Thursday and Rasmussen believes it may spell the end of her season.

“At the moment I would say she is doubtful to race again this season.

“I’m going to wait until Monday and see how things are then before we make a decision though.

That means she won’t be in action at next week’s, New Zealand Oaks nor the Harness Jewels at Cambridge at the end of the month.

By Matt Markham (Harness Racing New Zealand)

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