Smart three-year-old Sky Major looks right on song for the upcoming Breeders Crown Series in Australia after downing a smart field of older rivals at Alexandra Park last night. The Art Major colt, who was having his first race start since his emphatic victory in the 3YO Emerald division of the Harness Jewels, was driven cold by Zac Butcher, sitting last before moving into the race three wide down the back straight. He then let down strongly in the home stretch to run down Cyamach, who looked home after kicking away at the top of lane. Beyond The Silence finish a further half length away in third after enjoying a nice run in the trail. The Barry Purdon trained star paced the 2200 metre journey in a slick 2:43.3. The official last half was 56.5. However, Sky Major would have gone his last 800 metres a lot quicker as he came from a long way off the pace. The dual Jewels winner, who won a walkover heat of the Breeders’ Crown at Cambridge last week, will now head to Australia to compete in an MO at Melton on the 8th of August before tackling the 3YO Breeders Crown semi finals on August 22. All going well he well then progress through to the rich Group One final on the 30th of August. Cyamach, who was good in second behind the speedy colt, is also likely to head to Australia for the four-year-old male division of the series, while Cambridge winners Field Marshall and Cyclone Kate will also be part of the ever-growing Kiwi contingent heading across the Tasman for the series. Meanwhile, star Australian three-year-old Bling It On, who was thought to be the main danger to Sky Major in the ABC 3yo colts and geldings division, suffered a shock loss to Kiwi export Alleluia in a two horse heat of the Breeders Crown at Albion Park last night and will now head to repechage on the 13th of August. After sitting second while Alleluia set a leisurely pace in front, driver Bart Cockburn set Bling It On a light at the 700 metres. The pair then eyeballed each other until the bend, but it was Alleluia who showed more dash in the straight, sprinting away for a 6 metre win. Alleluia paced his last 800 metres in a sizzling 54.8 with a final quarter of 26.3. Driver Bart Cockburn was questioned regarding his driving tactics on Bling It On when allowing Grant Dixon to go through the first half of the last mile in 68 seconds. Under rule 149 (1) he was suspended for a period of eight weeks. By Mitchell Robertson
Top New Zealand filly Ideal Belle has been scratched from her two-horse Australasian Breeders’ Crown heat at Alexandra Park tomorrow night and has been ruled out of the rich series by trainer Barry Purdon. The New Zealand Oaks winning filly, who would have been one of the favourites for the Group One 3YO fillies division, has suffered a leg injury after being caught in a fence at Purdon’s Clevedon property. The tall American Ideal filly, who showed she was right on song for the series with a smart workout last week, will now head to the spelling paddock. Her scratching means that the Geoff Small trained Zeta Bromac will get a walkover ABC heat win, as will Ideal Belle’s stablemate Sky Major who is still well on track for the 3YO colts and geldings division of the series. In other Breeders Crown news, the Tim Butt trained Field Marshal is set to arrive in Melbourne on August 6 in preparation for the ABC after qualifying in a one horse heat at Cambridge last week, while Katy Perry, who was defeated in her Cambridge heat by Joanne’s A Delight, is already in Australia and will compete in the Tatlow Stakes (Group Two) at Melton on Saturday before heading to a Breeders' Crown Repechage. Katy Perry is just one a strong contingent of Kiwi trained or owned horses that are seat to do battle in feature races across the Tasman this weekend. Others include Messini, Kept Under Wraps, Iceobar, Bettor Rock On, My Arya, Primz Luck, One Over Da Moon, Our Twentyten, and Daenerys Targaryen. However the two highlights of the weekend may come from champion Australian pacers Im Themightyquinn and Smoken Up. ‘Trigger’ (Smoken Up) is set to have his last start in New South Wales at Menangle on Saturday and his trainer-driver Lance Justice is expecting a big performance, while ‘Quinny’, who will be reunited with Gary Hall Jnr, will battle it out with Mach Beauty, Suave Stuey Lombo, and Avonnova for Group One glory in the Blake’s A Fake at Albion Park on Saturday. After much talk about drivers leading into the race, Lauren Panella has decided to stick with Mach Beauty, while Bart Cockburn, who has been sacked from Avonnova after his interesting drive in the Sunshine Sprint, will take the reins behind Suave Stuey Lombo. Replacing Cockburn in the sulky behind Queensland star Avonnova is Shane Graham, who was victorious in his only drive on the gelding. By Mitchell Robertson
Smart three-year-old filly Raksdeal is on her way home after suffering a suspensory injury during her lead-up to Saturday night’s Gold Coast Oaks. However, her long-term prognosis is looking good. “She worked super at Albion Park on Wednesday but unfortunately her leg blew up afterwards,” said Clark Barron. We got the vet out straight away and had her leg scanned and luckily it showed there is no hole in the suspensory, just bruising,” he added. “There was a 50/50 chance we could have got her right for the Queensland Oaks but I had a chat with her owner Brendan Fahy and we decided that she was far too good to risk,” said Barron. Barron said that he believes the injury has come as a result of a long season of racing and travel. “It’s obviously a real shame but at least she is probably going to be alright long-term,” highlighted Barron. Raksdeal, who was Group One placed on three occasions during the season, is currently in Auckland and will arrive back at her Southland base on Thursday. “They did a good job of treating her leg in Australia but we will get our vet to reassess her when she is home before sending her to the paddock,” he added. “We have got our fingers crossed that she will make a full recovering and come back good next season and at this stage we have seen nothing that indicates that she won’t,” he enthused. Meanwhile, due to Raksdeal’s unfortunate absence from the upcoming Queensland Oaks, prolific owner Bob McArdle is now contemplating sending Te Amo Bromac over for the Group One feature. A decision is likely to be made after the smart filly, which is now in the care of Barry Purdon, competes at Alexandra Park on Friday night. By Mitchell Robertson
When attempting to back a winner at Alexandra Park on Friday, look for horses that competed well, or even adequately, in the Harness Jewels at Cambridge on May 31st. The first race sees a field that is stacked with fillies and mares that competed in the Jewels and they look set to dominant the event. Heading the line-up is Te Amo Bromac, who is now in the barn of Barry Purdon. She was very good when finishing sixth in the 3YO Diamond after starting from a wide second-line barrier and looks the one they all have to beat. Jewels contestants Christy Breanna and Royal Counsel look the next best, while Saharazona could be the one to spice things up. Monseigner, who nearly pulled off the biggest boilover in Jewels history when finishing second behind King Denny in the 3YO Ruby, could very well win the second race if he brings his manners, while Imnotquitesure, who finished ninth in the same event, shouldn’t be far from the action. However, if Lucky Fortune, who actually contested the Harness Jewels at Ashburton last year, gets around safely, that pair could be left to pick up the crumbs. Ballyronan, Astral Traveller, and Princess Sophia, who all drop back from the 4YO Ruby, should all be in the fight in race five, while Cyclone Prince heads a strong Jewels brigade, including Rocknroll Arden and Whisper Jet, in the sixth event. Others worth putting the ring around on Friday are The Fascinator, Lancewood Lizzie, and Norvic Nightowl, who all finished in top-four posisition at last month’s 1.2 million-dollar raceday, while Jewels villain Mighty Flying Major should reign supreme over 2YO Emerald runner-up, Bettor Spirits, in the final race on at the card Alexandra Park on Friday. By Mitchell Robertson
All the talk before the race was how could they beat Isaiah when he drew barrier two. The public thought so making him a $1:30 favourite which seemed very short given how even the three year olds had been all season. And so it proved with Sky Major swooping from the back off a hot pace to down the hotpot and claim his second Jewels crown ($150,000) in a brilliant 1:52.1, a new track record. The pace was hot early with Tiger Tara taking it to Isaiah in an opening quarter of 26.9 before they both sat up over the next 400 in 29.1. Sky Major had slotted into a lovely possie on the outer from the outside of the second row following Cyclone Prince. Isaiah applied the pressure at the 500, dropping off Tiger Tara momentarily with Cyclone Prince looming up wider on the track with Sky Major hard on his back. Turning for home Isaiah looked home but started to go up and down on the one spot and was headed first by a resurgent Tiger Tara and then by a flying Sky Major. It was only the third win for the season for high class son of Art Major but just reward for a super consistent season. Tiger Tara was outstanding in second being involved in the sub 27 first quarter battle, looking beaten at the 500 before coming back for a great second. Isaiah was slightly disappointing in third although sweating up profusely before the start may have taken the edge off his performance. Messini ran on well for fourth while Cyclone Prince again failed at this level after receiving a gun run. Andre Poutama won't have fond memories of his first Jewels drive with Thomas McBride falling after just 75 meters dislodging his young driver but both driver and horse seemed okay post race. Mark Robertson
Ricky May found out the hard way why you can never be too confident heading into the Harness Jewels. Despite picking up a victory with Terror To Love at last year’s Jewels in Ashburton, the Methven horseman had a tough day at the office overall despite being touted as the driver to follow throughout the day. Seven of May’s drives at the meeting started inside the top three favourites and only three filled a placing. “It definitely taught me that you can’t be too confident that’s for sure.’’ Fast forward 12 months and the most successful driver in New Zealand Trotting Cup history is in a similar position as he heads to Cambridge tomorrow for this year’s $1.2 million Harness Jewels Raceday. Despite being devoid of a stand out drive like Terror To Love this year, May’s dance card for the meeting is high quality and he has more than one chance at adding to the two Jewels victories he already has. “It’s a good book of drives and for once the draws have actually come out alright for me. “I’m just trying not to get too far ahead of myself this year.’’ Heading the list of drives is speedy pacing mare Helena Jet. Had it not been for champion mare, Adore Me, the Greg and Nina Hope trained mare would be going around a commanding favourite – instead she is the runner everyone is tipping to finish second. May can’t afford and doesn’t want to think that way. “You can’t go out there thinking you are just there to run second. “I think she is a great chance in the race, people probably underestimate just how good she is. “Her trial at Addington last week was really impressive – she felt great.’’ Coming into the race fresh, Helena Jet is going to have to be at her best. “She does seem to race some of her best races when she is in a fresh state so we are just going to have to punch out and see where we end up.’’ Helena Jet is one of three runners May will driver for the Woodend Beach based Hope training duo. The other two, Monbet and Mossdale Connor, both turned heads with impressive workout victories at Cambridge last week and from good barrier draws they are expected to play a big role in both of their respective races. “I think Monbet would have to be my best chance of the day,’’ May said. “He’s a really talented trotter and he’s finally got a barrier draw to use, he feels like he could trot out really quickly if I want him too. “Mossdale Connor is in the same sort of position, he can fly the gate if he wants too, but it’s what we do after that is the big question – I think he could lead if he wanted to. “This could be his big chance at getting a big one.’’ May’s book of drives for the day are rounded out by three-year-old filly, Lancewood Lizzie for Auckland trainer Barry Purdon and also Davey’s Gift in the three—year-old Ruby for Michael Ward. By Matt Markham (HRNZ)
Top young harness racing reinsman Zac Butcher nailed his second New Zealand Oaks victory in the space of three years when guiding Ideal Belle to an emphatic victory in the Group One feature at Addington tonight. The Barry Purdon trained filly, who was a luckless second behind Venus Serena in the Nevele R Fillies Final, made up for last week’s mishap by downing Raksdeal and Te Amo Bromac in the $125,000 time honoured event. Driven perfectly by Butcher, the American Ideal filly led early, before taking a trail behind runner-up Raksdeal. Ideal Belle and Butcher then pushed out into the clear on the home bend and raced away for an effortless 2 & ½ length victory. “The draw and race panned out perfectly and she won easily in the end,” enthused Butcher. “It definitely made up for last week where she was a luckless second after being checked at the 350 metre mark,” he added. Butcher said that there were a couple of times when he was slightly disappointed with Ideal Belle early in the season, but added that she was really starting to hit her straps now. "She has really strenghten up of late and has finally grown into her huge frame," he explained. "She was just as tall at two as she is now but she has filled out a lot lately," he added. Butcher is now hopeful that Ideal Belle will recieve a good barrier draw in the 3YO Diamond section of the Harness Jewels at Cambridge on May 31st. "If she draws one to five I think she has a cracking chance," he enthused. Ideal Belle is also eligable for the rich Australasian Breeders Crown Series and is likely to head across the Tasman provided she is still in good form after the Harness Jewels. Meanwhile, superstar filly Venus Serena was slightly dissapointing by her extremely high standards, finishing in fifth after working hard mid-race. By Mitchell Robertson
If she wasn’t there already, Venus Serena rocketed herself into the status of superstar today at Addington. The brilliant three-year-old filly notched up the fifth Group One of her career this afternoon (Saturday) at Addington when winning the $140,000 Nevele R Fillies final in New Zealand record time – the fourth of its kind in her career. And the fun hasn’t stopped yet. Such is the domination of the Geoff Dunn-trained filly that she will go out a red-hot favourite in the remaining two Group One battles for her age group and sex this season. The first of those will come as soon as next week when Venus Serena returns to Addington to tackle the New Zealand Oaks. Then it is on to Cambridge for a tilt at becoming a dual Jewels winner on May 31. And Dunn had a warning for those who will take their place in the Oaks next week. “She has only had a workout in between her last run and today, so you would like to think she will get better,’’ he said. Venus Serena lowered the NZ record held by champion three-year-old filly Carabella when stopping the clock at a blistering 2.19.1 – 0.6 seconds inside Carabella’s time. After burning out of the gate from her handy draw, Venus Serena was given little respite throughout the 1950 metre event but still had the audacity to run away from her opponents at the top of the straight. Things might have got a little interesting had North Island filly, Ideal Belle not galloped rounding the final bend when in the trail though. The Barry Purdon-trained runner managed to pick herself up off the canvas and put the issue to Venus Serena, but John Dunn who was sitting in the bike of the winner quickly eliminated any concerns she might have been beaten had the incident occurred. “She fights like a tiger when another horse comes up to her,'' he said. “When she got clear she pretty much knocked off but when Zac came up on my inside she grabbed the bit again. “It was a pretty impressive performance considering she pulled the whole way. “She was very keen today.’’ The win gave John Dunn his second Group One victory in less than 24 hours following the victory of Elios in the New Zealand Messenger at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Owned by Bob and Jenny Sandford along with Geoff Dunn – Venus Serena has now won 13 of her 18 career starts and is closing in on $600,000 in stakes and with $225,000 left to race for this season that figure should improve noticeably over the next month. Ideal Belle lost no admirers with her second placing while Rocknroll Arden emerged out of the pack to finish in third position. By Matt Markham (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Last week the ring-around produced seven winners, with Mark Jones, Stephen Richardson, Blair Orange, David Butt, Simon Lawson, Terry Chmiel, Jonny Cox, and Ricky May all producing the goods. Let’s hope for a repeat performance this week! Forbury Park - Thursday Andrew Armour: Has opted for Al Raza, who will look to go one better after a nice debut second - race two. Jonny Cox: Is bullish about the chances of Tagataese, who smashed his rivals in a penalty free maiden claimers race last start. He competes in the third race on the card. Tim Williams: Has opted for the consistent Waitoto Express, who should add to his bank balance on Thursday - race five. Matthew Williamson: Had the choice of three drives in the last race at Forbury but opted for Lionels Meddle, who looks well placed in the tenth race on the card. Alexandra Park - Friday Blair Orange: Is bullish about the chance of Full Speed Ahead, who was an emphatic winner at Addington last start - race one. Todd Mitchell: Has opted for the smart Doubleodeano, who looks the main threat to Full Speed Ahead. - race one. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Rates the chances of smart filly Lancewood Lizzie, who is now trained by Barry Purdon - race four. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Linda Lovegrace - race five David Butt: Thinks One Over Da Moon can make the most of his ace alley in the Northern Trotting Derby - race eight. Ken Barron: Expects star trotting filly Majestic Time to prove very hard to beat in the Northern Trotting Derby - race eight. Anthony Butt: Will take the reins behind Aussie raider Zedalite, who was a very good second in the Anzac Cup last week - race ten. Nathan Williamson: Has taken The Wonkey Donkey north and expects him to be very competitive in the last race on the card. Addington - Friday Mark Jones: Thinks two-year-old Smoke N Santanna will be very hard to beat in what looks an average maiden line-up - race one. Gavin Smith: Thinks the consistent Naughty Maravu can be competitive despite his tricky barrier draw - race eight. Thames@ Alexandra Park - Sunday Josh Dickie: Has opted for Live At Speed, who drops back from a handy fifth in a much stronger field last start - race one. Jay Abernethy: Rates Riverboat Sue as his best chance of the week- race five. Ashburton – Sunday Ricky May: Believes Franco Salisbury, who was a fast-finishing fourth last start, will prove hard to beat from his ace alley – race seven. Terry Chmiel: Thinks Little Tess looks very well placed in the ninth race on Sunday.
Barry Purdon has gone to the bench and called in a super-sub for Friday night's Group I New Zealand Derby at Addington. One of the most successful horseman in Derby history, Purdon has enlisted champion reinsman Ricky May to drive his charge Sky Major in the $175,000 event. Initially the North Island horseman came south with a view to driving the Group I winner himself, but May's availability proved too good to pass up on. "I want to give the horse the best possible opportunity," Purdon said yesterday. "Ricky is one of the best in the business, it makes sense to use him. "He knows all the opposition and their racing styles and he's one of our best in the big races." Purdon's record in the Derby is exemplary, although he hasn't started a horse in New Zealand's greatest three-year-old race since The Cavalier (11th), who he trained in partnership with Scott Phelan, ran in the 2008 edition, and then you have to go back to 2004 to find his next starters; High Calibre (9th) and Derek Bromac (11th). Purdon's five winners came during the 90s, including a golden period where he and his father Roy won four consecutive editions of the race with Kiwi Scooter (1992), Mark Roy (1993), Ginger Man (1994) and Il Vicolo (1995). He was successful on his own accord with Holmes DG in 1998. For May, the race hasn't been quite so kind. He's yet to claim a victory in 22 attempts with just three placings on Spring Alot (2004), Colonel Anvil (1999) and Happy Patron (1986) all he has to show for his efforts - a remarkable statistic considering some of the three-year-olds he has driven in his career. A brave fifth placing in last week's Flying Stakes gives Sky Major more than an outside chance of beating some of his talented opposition, although an outside barrier draw hasn't exactly helped. "We haven't had a great run of barrier draws with him," Purdon said. "But it could turn out to be a good one if there is plenty of speed in the race, Ricky's patient driving style could work right in our favour. He was super last week I thought, he just had to do too much work, but he has come through that run really well. "Now we just need that luck to fall our way." While one Purdon had to scratch his head at yet another average barrier draw, another was smiling after some good fortune. Purdon's brother Mark will line up four horses in the race as he shoots for his third consecutive victory and his 12th victory overall as either a trainer or a driver. And all four have drawn inside the first five marbles with Messini going from barrier one, Aldo Rossi barrier two, Isaiah barrier four and Alleluia barrier five. Gun three-year-olds Locharburn and Tiger Tara had mixed results in the draw stakes with Locharburn drawing six and Tiger Tara one on the second line. By Matt Markham (Courtesy of THE PRESS)
A superb drive from one of New Zealand's most promising reinsmen ensured victory for second favourite Democrat Party in tonight's Group Two $80,000 Gotta Go Cullen Young Guns Delightful Lady Classic (1700m mobile) for 2-year-old fillies. Zac Butcher might have started from barrier six with the daughter of American Ideal but soon after found himself in the one-one. "She started real well and it was just a matter of luck really," a modest Butcher said. "She was always travelling well and at the top of the straight I thought she would be hard to beat. She doesn't like to let anything get past her once she hits the front," he added. Democrat Party paced the 1700m mobile in a slick 2:02.77. Mile rate: 1:56.2 and final 800m and 400m sectionals in 58 flat and 29.2 seconds. "She's a lovely filly, but still a bit green with a lot of improving to do. She has a really bright future," Butcher said. Democrat Party is trained by Butcher's boss and Hall-Of-Fame conditioner Barry Purdon. He is owned by her breeders F. J. and Mrs K. V. Price. The bay filly has now won two of her three starts and banked $52,400. Past winners (and times) of the Group Two Delightful Lady Classic for 2yo fillies have been: 2013: Angelina Jolie (David Butcher) 2:04.0; 2012: La Norvic De Milo (James Stormont) 2:04.9; 2011: Precious Rose (Zac Butcher) 2:06.5; 2010: Collectable (Nicole Molander) 2:04.9; 2009: Sixpence (Steve Reid) 2:06.1; 2008: World Of Dreams (Maurice McKendry) 2:05.4; 2007: So Deep (Graeme Harris) 2:06.4. By Duane Ranger (Friday March 7, 2014)
It was appropriate that Sean Grayling drove his first winner on the Pukekohe grass yesterday. After all he grew up with horses at his father’s Pukekohe stable, and learnt to drive at Counties Kidz Kartz just across the road at the Franklin track. It was also a just reward for the 18-year-old who on October 10 last year broke his wrist in a race-fall at Cambridge Raceway. He was rushed to Waikato Hospital and was out of action until December 29. That was just his sixth race-day drive. He’s now had 19 drives for one win, two seconds and a third. Grayling, last year’s North Island Cadet Rising Star Award winner, won behind the Tony Grayling (Dad) trained Brookby Prince. The Monarchy bay gelding was the sixth favourite and paid $14.90 to win the $5,500 Tony and Anne Parker Trot. He got the 5-year-old away quickly from his 30m handicap and was fifth in the running line early before lobbing into the one-one. They then loomed up three-wide on the turn to win by 1-3/4 lengths from the favourite Handoverdakash and Tony Herlihy (MNZM). Roughie It’s Big Time (Phil Butcher) was 2-3/4 lengths back in third. It was Brookby Prince’s second win from 32 starts. She trotted the 2300m stand in 3:08.1. Mile rate: 2:11.5. Last 800m: 64.4 and final 400m in 32.6. “He was going real strong at the top of the straight. That’s when I thought this could be my first win. It was a great feeling all right,” said Grayling who is sponsored by JGH Chartered Accountants. Grayling dedicated the win to his late mother Anne, who passed away on July 24, 2012. He also thanked his father and employer Barry Purdon for everything he has learnt in the sulky. “I’m sure Mum would have been watching down on me. She encouraged my driving. I really miss her. I also want to thank Dad and Barry. They have been so supportive,” Grayling said. “I’d also like to thank the owners Steve and Karen Dunn for having the faith in me to drive Brookby Prince the whole time,” he added. He said he loved harness racing especially being employed by Hall-Of-Famer, Purdon. “I’ve learnt so much working here. In fact you never stop learning. It’s not hard to see why Barry is a master trainer. He’s a legend. “Zac (Butcher) also works here so I’m working alongside the best people and the best horses,” he said. Grayling was born in Pukekohe and left Pukekohe High School at the end of Year 11 to join the Purdon barn in December 2011. “It was such a great feeling to win. Super in fact! It might have come a lot earlier had I not been out for 10 weeks,” said Grayling who is also a loose forward in rugby, and brilliant cricket fielder and lower order batsman. Grayling said his goal for the remainder of the season was to land a “couple” more winners and then one day to try and one day qualify for the New Zealand Junior Driving Championships, and then ultimately the Australasian Junior Finals. “I’ve got a long way to go yet, but I’m really enjoying what I do. I have wanted to be a harness racing driver for as long as I can remember. I’m leaving my dream,” Grayling said. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Pembrook absolutely loves racing at Alexandra Park. The 9-year-old son of Courage Under Fire won his 16th race on the tack when easily winning tonight’s Group Two $50,000 Auckland Co-op Taxis City Of Auckland Free-For-All. All up ‘Benny’ has now won 22 of his 90 starts and $867,982. Driven by Zac Butcher the bay gelding was always going to be a tough nit to crack after trailing last year’s race winner, Easy On The Eye. The Barry Purdon trained gelding paced the 2200m mobile in 2:40.60 with final 800m and 400m sectionals in 57.6 and 29.4. Mile rate: 1:57.4. Easy On The Eye (Peter Ferguson) and Besotted (Simon Lawson) finished second and third some two lengths and 1-1/4 lengths back. Butcher said he would be even stronger come next week’s Group One Auckland Cup. “He hasn’t done much since coming back from Australia and he did it real easy tonight. He can only be improved by the run. I’d love to win that race so much,” said Butcher. Pembrook Benny is owned by his trainer, Terry Henderson, J. C. Higgins, K. G. Parry, Dave Sixton, and former All Black coach John Hart. He was bred by W. D. Power and Mrs G. L. Power. The past winners (with drivers and times have been): 2013: Easy On The Eye (Peter Ferguson) 2:42.8. 2012: Sir Lincoln (Maurice McKendry) 2:40.3. 2011: Power Of Tara (Brent Mangos) 2:41.3. 2010: Big Dog (Scott Phelan) 2:45.7. 2009: Monkey King (Ricky May) 2:41.8. 2008: Classic Cullen (Mark Purdon) 2:43.1. 2007: Classic Cullen (Mark Purdon) 2:39.0. 2006: Mainland Banner (Ricky May) 2:44.7. 2005: Elsu (David Butcher) 2:40.4. 2004: Sly Flyin (Tony Herlihy) 2:43.0. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Barry Purdon signed the dockets for both Lot 162 and Lot 167 at Karaka in 2012 and two years later the pair produced the quinella in the A$200,000 Victoria Derby. Along the way Maxim has won the $150,000 NZ Sires’ Stakes 2YO Final and Sky Major took out the overall title of NZ Two-Year-Old of the Year. Maxim purchased from the Woodlands Stud draft for $35,000 was bred by none other than Charlie Roberts, who else. A $50,000 purchase, Sky Major was offered by Brian and Heather Hedger from Clevedon and Greg Sweeney of Auckland. The Sales have been a happy hunting ground for Barry Purdon in the past few years with Cheer The Lady(NZ Oaks and Breeders Crown), Five Card Draw(also NZ 2YO of the Year), Precious Rose and Bettor Offer all coming out of either Auckland or Christchurch Yearling Sales. Six NZ breds won on Derby night at Melton, including Padrisimo, Inky Cullen and Chilli Palmer from the Yearling Sales as well as Lysenko and Our Blackbird.
It was a brilliant Barry Purdon quinella that marked the 100th year since the first ever running of the harness racing Victorian Derby. In a tactically brilliant move Craig Demmler switch Our Sky Major - a noted leader - off the pegs in the opening stages to take the lead off his stablemate - a noted sit sprinter. From there the McCarthy army enforced the pace through the middle stages with Bling It On finding the chair and Lettucrockthem in the one by one. But a lack of mid-race pressure told the story of the race as Our Maxim was produced along the sprint lane to claim the $200,000 classic in gritty fashion. A winner of over $340,000 in prizemoney now, Barry Purdon has never been willing to split his two rising stable stars and the VHRSC Victoria Derby proved just why. Our Sky Major clung on for second in a mile rate of 1:56.0 with the last half coming in 54.2 seconds while Yayas Hot Spot shot along the pegs to claim third to complete an all New Zealand bred trifecta. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria
Australia’s leading trainer admits two Kiwi stablemates hold all the aces in the $A200,000 Victoria Derby at Melton tomorrow night. Our Maxim and Our Sky Major, who have already quinellaed two group one races in their careers, are drawn to potentially lead and trail in the classic over 2240m. And once that draw came out superstar Sydney trainer Luke McCarthy knew he was in trouble. McCarthy trains the Australian equivalent of the Barry Purdon-trained pair, having pre-draw favourites Bling It On and Lettucerockthem, who also quinealled group one races last season. But tonight they have both drawn wide and McCarthy says that gives the New Zealand three-year-olds a huge advantage. “The Kiwis are both good horses, I know that from chasing them home in the Sires’ Stakes and Harness Jewels last season with Allblack Stride,” says McCarthy. “Then they came over here and my pair beat them in the Breeders Crown because we led and trailed and they simply couldn’t make enough ground over the last 800m. “And I can see the reverse happening this week. I am pretty sure they have the speed to lead and trail and if we have to come around them we might not be good enough. “So they are definitely the ones to beat.” The irony is the Kiwi pair would probably be more potent with Our Sky Major drawn to lead and Our Maxim on his back, rather than the other way around. Purdon has always rated Our Maxim the speedster and Our Sky Major the stayer of the pair but with the Derby likely to have at least some pressure, both should get their chance. Still, with Our Sky Major double the fixed odds price of Our Maxim, he is clearly the better value option. Our Maxim’s driver Zac Butcher has one of the key drives at Alexandra Park tonight before he heads back to Melbourne tomorrow. He will partner former Southland trotter Cool Cobber in race seven, where he faces a 30m handicap and talented four-year-olds Revenue Maker and Wingsonhai in the best race of the night. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)