Champion harness racing trainer Mark Purdon is quite pleased he picked up the phone the day Jim Gibbs decided to call.
That one conversation has led to one of thoroughbred racings’ greatest and his harness racing equivalent forming a formidable owner and trainer combination.
A week after they found themselves on the victory dais at Addington following Alta Orlando’s victory in the PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Series Open, they were back there again tonight (Friday) after Hug The Wind’s almost unbelievable victory in the Group One Sires’ Stakes Final.
The win was almost unbelievable for the fact that Hug The Wind received a check at the top of the straight that would have spelt the end of most other two-year-old pacer’s chances.
But the impressive looker picked himself up off the canvas to turn in a stunning final furlong to dash away and claim the win.
“He showed some real speed,’’ Purdon said.
“But he was so strong with it too – that’s probably what impressed me the most.
“He just got a wee bit of pressure from the horse inside him and I had to check him – it probably cost him a couple of lengths.’’
Gibb’s and his wife Ann joined the harness fray a few years back – firstly through smart filly Rozelski.
“Jim rang me out of the blue one day and said he was keen to get in on a horse or two if I could find one.
“We started with Rozelski and went from there.
“It’s an honour to train for him really, and his involvement in the industry will have to some real positive outcomes in the future you would think.’’
The Gibbs pairing are joined in the ownership of Hug The Wind by the horses breeders; Tony and Anne Parker and Kevin Warneford.
“We brought him at Karaka, Tony and Anne bred him and I asked them if they wanted to keep a share which they did.’’
Hug The Wind will be one of three runners Purdon and his training partner Natalie Rasmussen have engaged in the two-year-old Emerald division at the Harness Jewels at the end of the month.
He will be joined by fellow winner tonight Iceobar and freakish juvenile pacer – Follow The Stars who is unbeaten in six starts.
The number could have doubled though with Itz Bettor To Win, Kept Under Wraps and Alta Orlando all withdrawn despite being inside the cut-off point.
By Matt Markham (Harness Racing New Zealand)