Day At The Track

All go for NZ Cup as Reactor flies again

06:28 PM 01 Oct 2011 NZDT
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Auckland Reactor
Auckland Reactor

Auckland Reactor's New Zealand Cup rivals will be running scared when they hear harness racing trainer Mark Purdon marked his scorecard on Friday night as a near perfect 10 out of 10.

In what managing part-owner John Curtin described as one of Purdon's greatest training feats, Auckland Reactor (Mach Three) lined up for the first time in six months at Addington and dispatched a strong lineup, dashing home from a seemingly impossible position to get up on the line.

But it was more the Reactor's overall performance, rather than his sizzling sub 55sec last 800 metres, which got Purdon excited that the once unbeatable champ was back.

Not only did the horse step well from the standing start, overcoming a long-time achilles heel, but he settled beautifully in the field, with no sign of the over-racing that ruined his last preparation.

Purdon said Auckland Reactor was surprisingly tractable when he was forced to back him up from the tape just before the start, but even better when rival Bondy started galloping sideways towards him on release.

"I shuddered when I saw Bondy and held my breath when I had to check off him. In the past it would have broken him up, but he didn't give me the impression at all that he was going to make a mistake." While Purdon said he did not know whether the Reactor would settle in the field, the horse had been showing signs in training at home that "he was trying to get his act together".

"Last time in he was coming off the back of the American campaign and as soon as the whistle blew and he came up behind the gate, you were just a passenger.

"But he's had a good foundation and a lot of groundwork this time, and on Friday night it really helped giving him that run in the field. If he can learn to race in behind like that, he'll be just as good, if not better."

Purdon said the only mark he could deduct from the Reactor was for his last 500 metres, when he "really wanted to get into it - I had a real handful of horse." Purdon said the Reactor felt the best he has since his all-conquering three-year-old and early four-year-old days, and in his next two starts before the cup on November 8, he would be careful not to put him in a position where he would rip and tear again.

While Purdon said Friday night's win was one of his most satisfying, Curtin was adamant it was one of his greatest, full stop.

"Mark's got him back from near death only six months ago to win first-up against a top field," said Curtin, referring to the serious colitis X infection which struck the horse down in March, just before the Interdominions.

"In hindsight that might have been the best thing that could have happened to him as it meant he had five months off ... he's come back in terrific condition and is much more mature and sensible."

Curtin said despite all the problems he'd struck in the last two years, his aborted American campaign and subsequent soft palate operation, the Reactor never ceased to amaze him.

"He's a horse who sends shivers up your spine. He had no show of winning 200 metres out - I would have been rapt to just see him running on for second or third - but he got up and when he hit the line he really took off. And afterwards he wouldn't have blown out a candle - he only really had to sprint the last bit."

Curtin said he was delighted for the new Australian owners in the horse, in particular Sydneysider Albert Pizzuto, who recently bought out the Stallion Station's 10% share to increase his holding to 20%. The owners should get to see plenty of Auckland Reactor in Australia, with the Miracle Mile looming soon after the NZ Cup.

Courtesy of Barry Lichter and the Sunday Star Times

AVON CITY FORD (New Brighton) CUP (Gr3)$25,000, FFA PACE, 2600m


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