Day At The Track

Barry knows it will be harder this year

02:14 PM 07 Nov 2014 NZDT
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Barry Purdon and Zac Butcher - Know it will be harder for Pembrook Benny this year.
Barry Purdon and Zac Butcher - Know it will be harder for Pembrook Benny this year

One of the bravest veterans in New Zealand pacing faces a huge battle to replicate his shock run in last year’s New Zealand Cup.

Because his champion trainer Barry Purdon says quite simply next Tuesday’s field is stronger.

Pembrook Benny was 100-1 to win the great race last season but outside of the winner produced the run of the race to finish fourth, before going even better to win the Free-For-All three days later.

Both runs left Purdon beaming with pride and while he is happy the now 10-year-old is at least as good as last season he says the job is tougher.

“This time last year he was going into the race with only one start under his belt but now he has had three,” says Purdon.

The last of those was an unplaced effort at Ashburton, but a performance which has grown on Purdon.

“Initially when I saw they had paced the last quarter in 26 I thought he should have stuck with them better,” admits Purdon.

“But when I watched it again he was coming at them again on the line and he had a lot harder run than many of the horses around him.

“So it wasn’t a bad run and I’d say he is going at least as good as last year, although obviously he is a year older.

“So we just have to hope for a good draw and that maybe he can tuck away and get a nice drag along.”

While Pembrook Benny didn’t need those sort of favours last season, Purdon realises he will next Tuesday as this Cup has more depth.

“It is definitely stronger,” he says.

“You have the first four home from last season but they are joined by Adore Me and Hands Christian who are racing really well.

“And then you have the two Australian horses, with good trainers.

“We all know how good Terror To Love is and he is still the horse to beat but Adore Me and Christen Me are both going great.

“And I have been really impressed by Hands Christian. Mark and Natalie have done a great job to get him going the way they have after how long he had off and you would think he will keep improving too.

“So it is shaping as a great race.”

While there are not many challenges in harness racing Purdon hasn’t conquered, he is undertaking a new one after his election two weeks ago to the board of directors at the Auckland Trotting Club.

That gives the board a very experienced representative for horsepeople and Purdon says he is looking forward to being involved.

“It is something different for me and I am hoping to do the best I can for my fellow trainers and drivers but also the club as a whole.

“So it is great to be involved.”

Courtesy Of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

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