Day At The Track

Six-week suspension for Mark Purdon

07:37 AM 18 Mar 2009 NZDT
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Mark Purdon gets advice The Queensland Harness Racing Chairman
Mark Purdon gets advice - at yesterday's hearing at Parklands Raceway.
Duane Ranger photo
The Queensland Harness Racing Chairman - of Stewards, Martin Knibbs (2nd left) and his committee.
Duane Ranger photo

Interdominion favourite Auckland Reactor will have a new driver for the remainder of the Carnival at Parklands Raceway on the Gold Coast. It will be the first time in 23 starts that co-trainer Mark Purdon hasn't driven the Auckland Cup champion.

At a two-and-a-half hour hearing of the Queensland Harness Racing Stewards at Parklands Raceway today (Wednesday), Purdon was suspended for six weeks. He has until 9.30am to lodge his appeal. That is the time when drivers are declared for the second round of heats on Saturday.

Immediately after the hearing, which adjourned three times, Purdon said he was devastated with the outcome. He said he would be contacting the owners as to whether or not he would be appealing.

"To be honest I expected a far better outcome than this. I don't think they took the horses condition going into the race into account. I think I have been hard done by. I would have accepted a monetary fine. Whether I appeal or not is entirely up to the owners," Purdon said.

Auckland Reactor Syndicate manager, John Curtin said he was hugely disappointed with the decision and would be talking to Purdon about an appeal.

Chairman of stewards Martin Knibbs said he didn't enjoy handing out such a sentence to a horse and driver with such a high status and especially in a high status event like the Interdominion Pacing Championship.

"Would you consider a monetary fine?" he questioned Purdon.

Then for a third time he ushered Purdon and the Press out of the hearing for his four-strong committee to make a decision. When Purdon re-entered the room, Knibbs, a former steward in Sydney and Hong Kong said:

"You have been suspended for six weeks under rule 149/1. We believe you didn't give your horse every possible chance of winning. You are suspended for six weeks." There was no monetary fine.

He was referring to Purdon's failing to capitalize on making a move at the 1200m mark when the son of Mach Three had an opportunity to press forward. However he remained pocketed until the 900m when he eventually made his move in the three-wide line.

Knibbs also said his committee also took into consideration that Purdon had elected to follow Zenad in the running and therefore give Auckland Reactor a lesser chance of winning.

"It is never pleasant sitting in this chair. I know you probably feel bad where you are sitting but I can assure you this is not easy. However in saying that the stewards and public expect to see a high level of driver competence and with a Championship like the Interdominions we expect a higher level of skill," Knibbs said.

Purdon reminded the committee that he had driven Auckland Reactor 22 times and was proud of the way he had driven him on 21 occasions.

"If I could have the race over I probably would have driven him different but hindsight is a wonderful thing. You don't have hindsight when you are driving. I might have made an error in judgement but it is certainly not worth a suspension," Purdon said.

Purdon was denied representation at the meeting under Queensland Harness Racing law and when asked if fellow Kiwi driver Anthony Butt could speak for after a 48-hour stay in proceedings.

"I don't see how that will help your case," Knibbs said.

Purdon is suspended until April 30. If he appeals and loses he will have to consider sacrificing big drives in New Zealand in early May.

Duane RANGER (on the Gold Coast)

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