AllStars Racing Stables Ltd: Stars Of The Past
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Auckland Reactor

Our tribute to the horses which have made Mark Purdon and All Stars Stable household names in New Zealand harness racing.

FLY LIKE AN EAGLE

Fly Like An Eagle a horse who has been kindness itself to everyone associated with him so far, is off to spread the good word in the US of A after the Cup meeting now Joe Muscara acted to purchase him from his All Stars syndicate of owners-Phil and Glenys Kennard, Neil Pilcher, Gavin Douglas and Phil and Margaret Creighton. They spent $30,000 buying him in Australia on Mark's recommendation and since then he has won over $600,000 while his latest valuation being further icing on the cake.

Fly Like An Eagle is underrated in several ways. He firstly showed that having a busy two year old career on both sides of the Tasman and a similar three year old career took no toll on him as an older horse. He is as sound now after 40 starts as he was after 10 of them. Secondly he has built up an impressive record almost under the radar partly because of the success of his stablemate Smolda.

He won his two year old debut driven by Blair in Auckland in 2010 and then, after a disaster at his second start, he won the Cardigan Bay (Young Gun) his first Group One win worth $120,000. He then won twice in Australia leading into the $100,000 Vicbred Final. While a stablemate won the race the run given to Fly Like An Eagle in that big race will always rankle with his fans and probably his connections. He was simply given no chance and the race left a sour taste. But he bounced back to win the Harness Jewels in 1.54.6. He won by nearly four lengths and could have gone 1.52 had he been pressured. Speed has always been the Eagle's main weapon and should prove valuable in the US.

Then the jinxes which always lingered around him struck again in Australia. He won three leadups to the Breeders Crown there but had to be scratched from the big day with an injury a race he would have been hard to beat in, After six months away from racing only second up he ran a strong fourth in the Great Northern Derby (Smolda 3rd) and then upset his super talented stablemate in the NZ Derby winning the $150,000 feature heading a stable quinella. He wasn't quite as impressive in a brief Australian Derby campaign when Michelle Neilson drove him in the Newcastle Derby, his leadup to the NSW Derby.

But it was different there last July when he won five in succession culminating in the $176,000 Breeders Crown.

There is a very short list of horses who have won the Jewels, a Derby and a Breeders Crown. At his next start first up in NZ he won the Methven Cup and broke 4 minutes over 3200m in the NZ Cup. In the autumn he won the Group 3 Gotta Go Cullen FFA at Addington, his final victory.

Mark originally did not intend to run the handsome pacer in the NZ Cup believing the horse's greatest asset is is speed and that he is better suited to sprint distances.

In fast run Australian races the proof was in the pudding-or the results.

From 14 starts in Australia Fly Like An Eagle won eight, ran three thirds,a fourth and a fifth only failing to greet the judge once. His best mile time there of 1.55.9 wasput up over 1720m in the Pacing Gold heats. Quite apart from his racing potential Fly Like An Eagle has stallion potential being a close relation to Chokin and Changeover.

Before that however there are some more fast miles to run.

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I CAN DOOSIT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 55 starts 36 wins 4 seconds 3 thirds $1.44m

 

GREAT TROTTER HAS RUN LAST RACE

I Can Doosit's outstanding race career came to an end with a phone call to All Stars Stables on Wednesday morning December 4). The call was from Dr Bill Bishop to Mark Purdon and revealed bad news from x rays taken after the champ showed up with problems in his comeback bid.

"The muscular trouble had flared up again and the x rays were to decide where we go from here'' Mark said. " Bill thought the situation was serious and he wasn't really happy with continuing any treatment involving injections so there was no other decision really''

I Can Doosit had been away for most of the year with problems which arose when his form tailed off in Auckland last summer.

"At first the prognosis was quite good. But when they went right in and checked the whole situation out it was more serious '' Mark said.

The experts felt we might get one or two more campaigns out of him at best but that that was the very best scenario'' Mark rates the Rowe

Cup as probably his biggest thrill among the 36 wins but it was one of many. "The way he came down the outside and swamped them was a

great feeling. And so was the Dominion because it was my first win in that race'' I Can Doosit took a mile time of 1.55.. He began racing in

humble surrounds at Winton in 2009 and has won at least once in every year since.

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Il Vicolo

Before Auckland Reactor came along Il Vicolo was the horse which defined the Mark Purdon racing career in his own right. Even post Auckland Reactor he is a horse which will always be remembered by harness racing fans and Purdon himself as a horse which set an incredible number of firsts for the young horseman. The statistics of his career and the manner in which he earned them set him apart as one of the finest young pacers of the modern era. As shown below Il Vicolo was selected by the New Zealand Post Office to grace a New Zealand stamp (second tier, right) being one of six illustrious trotting and galloping performers of the 1990's era. Il Vicolo was the Two Year Old Pacer of The Year in his debut season when officially trained by Roy and Barry Purdon though young Mark was never far from his side. Il Vicolo had been bought by John Seaton for $21,000 as a yearling when offered by Sandy Yarndley and his wife Jan as a yearling. Seaton, a Christchurch-based stock deler of considerable renown, gave young Mark Purdon a half-share in return for supervising his training after original trainer, Gary Hillier, retired from the game. It was to prove a great day's business for both. At two Il Vicolo posted seven wins, two seconds and a third from 10 starts including the rich Sales Pace and Sires Stakes Finals. At three Il Vicolo became one of the very few topliners of that age not to be beaten. He faced the starter 11 times and won the three major Derbys of Australasia the Great Northern, New Zealand and New South Wales classics. Mark Purdon remembers the last of them, the New South Wales Derby worth $100,000 as one of his three biggest thrills driving Il Vicolo which as a three year old remained in the colours of the Roy and Barry Purdon stable instead of Mark's alone. His record was quite phenomenal. He had his first start on October 7 at Te Awamutu and his last in Sydney on April 28th in what was a memorable visit to the other side of the Tasman for Mark Purdon. His brother, Barry, drove Il Vicolo in his final leadup in Auckland to the Addington "grand slam'' of three wins in three weeks culminating in the New Zealand Derby on March 18. The Rising Stars and the Sires Stakes and Sales Series Final were among his other wins. Il Vicolo was unchallenged as HORSE OF THE YEAR at a tender age. Mark rates the New South Wales Derby up there with the New Zealand Cups as one of his biggest thrills behind Il Vicolo. "I was just starting off on my own then and to win a big race like that in Australia was a special thrill. We had a good trip over there that year'' If Il Vicolo was devastating at three he was even bigger at four. His win in the New Zealand Cup in November 1995 set a training record which may never be bettered. At that stage Mark Purdon had held a public licence for just three months. He won six races from 13 starts in New Zealand adding the New Zealand Free For All to his New Zealand Cup win, an unheard of achievement by a four year old in that era. He was then a fast finishing second (to Norms Daughter) in the Miracle Mile in Sydney, but won three races on the campaign there and ended the season with $1.284m in stakes and taking the maximum 40 votes to win the HORSE OF THE YEAR for the second time. For Il Vicolo to stand out in Purdon's memory during a memorable season which included an Interdominion Trotting Championship with Pride of Petite; an Auckland Cup with Sharp and Telford; a Great Northern Oaks and the Two Year Old Championship shows what a standout star he was. "The two New Zealand Cups were the biggest memories for me in his New Zealand racing. To win a cup on your own account is unforgettable at any time and I had looked after Sole Command who had won for (father) Roy in 1977 so it was a race I always wanted to win. To win it twice, well, that was something'' Il Vicolo struck problems after being unplaced in the New Zealand Free for All in 1996 and failed off 15m behind stablemate Sharp and Telford in the Auckland Cup. He was retired to stud but recovered so quickly from his injuries he was put back into work for a Brisbane campaign in the winter of 1997. He won a race of easier class when resuming at Alexandra Park on the eve of the trip. "He won a race in Brisbane but he was not the horse he had been and it was decided to retire him permanently'' Purdon said. On today's race values Il Vicolo running around now would have earned over $4m- more than the Auckland Reactor syndicate had to pay for that superstar. That puts into some perspective what a sensational performaer Il Vicolo was. At stud he was not as good, a fate he shared with all the sons of the great Vance Hanover. However he has left his share of winners and as with many Kiwi track superstars who did not have the same impact at stud (most of them) it is his memorable track performances which will live in the memory. IL VICOLO Foaled October 27 1991. Two Year Old of the Year 1993, Three Year Old and Horse of the Year 1994. Horse of the Year 1995. 52 starts 31 wins eight seconds two thirds $1.580m. Best mile time 1:56.8

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Pride of Petite

Mark Purdon had barely started his training career when along came one of the great character mares of New Zealand trotting, Pride of Petite. By the end of her career she had won over $800,000 and 35 races, an extraordinary feat considering what she was asked to live up to. Her stakes winnings were a record for a New Zealand trotter at that time. She was the Trotting Mare of the Year three years in succession and also won the supreme title of Trotter of the Year in 1996-97 in an era when horses like Call Me Now, Merinai, stablemate Buster Hanover and stars of a similar calibre were far from easybeats. Unusually among New Zealand trotting stars, Pride of Petite was conceived in the United States. Her dam, Petite Evander, had been racing there with great success for the Weaver famiiy. It can still be argued that Petite Evander, a grand trotter in her own right in New Zealand, is our most successful trotting export to America. While many would give the honour to Lyell Creek that had a lot to do with the advent of live television of racing which allowed Kiwis to follow their hero in the States. Petite Evander remains the only New Zealand horse to win a division of the American Horse of The Year among the trotters being the Aged Trotting Mare of the Year. With the end of her career approaching the Weavers decided to put her in foal before bringing her back to New Zealand and selected the world champion trotter Royal Prestige as her consort. Given all that Pride of Petite had a lot to live up to and she did not let the Weavers down. Because she was an April foal she did not race at two and was given plenty of time to develop Pride of Petite was originally trained by Frank "Snow'' Weaver who drove her on debut but Mark Purdon was in the cart for her second start, drove her to her first win at her third and was rarely far away from the mare from then on, though Frank continued to train her for a time and occasionally Tony Herlihy, Peter Ferguson and John Langdon filled in for an absent Mark. An indication of Pride of Petite's durability was that she won her first race in November 1991 and her last running a 1:57.4 mile at Alexandra Park in December 1999. By December 1992 Pride of Petite was winning a $35,000 event at Alexandra Park beating Night Allowance and while lacking the strength and consistency to be always in the action she had her problems. In the end, Frank decided that the Barry and Roy Purdon stable and especially their chief assistant, Mark, should have a go with her. she gradually started to measure up to the top trotting stars beginning the one quest to fail her-a win at Addington- when just behind the placegetters in the 1994 Dominion Handicap. On returning to Auckland though she ran a mile in 1:58 to win at Cambridge and 4:08 to win off 30m at Alexandra Park. However her highlight over the next two years were back to back wins in the Interdominiion Trotting Championship. The victory in Melbourne in 1996 when Mark was in his first year of official training on his own account, was regarded by Mark as a highlight. Tony Herlihy drove her when she won the Interdominion in Adelaide the following year. Mark, just 31, put up a remarkable record in Melbourne that summer. Brabham won the Bendig Cuip, Pride of Petite won the $50,000 Trotters Mile, $50,000 Dullard Cup and heats and the $100,000 final of the Interdomions. Mark also won the Victorian Derby with Sharp and Telford and had 15 wins from 17 drives on the trip. "The Melbourne win was my greatest memory of Pride of Petite. She won it easily, things went well for us all through the trip and she won it quite easily'' Pride of Petite's Australian Interdominion wins gained her an invitation to race in the Elittlopp in Sweden where her dam had also gone. She qualified for the great race with a placing . She also had one start in Norway, Pride of Petite remained competitive at the top level though the two major staying races in this country, the Dominion and the Rowe Cup always eluded her, placings being her lot. She was retired after a fourth over 3200m at Alexandra Park. Pride of Petite was well named and her lack of outright size was against her in an era of some blockbuster male staying trotters Pride of Petite won the Challenge Stakes an Auckland Christmas meeting, three times and the National Trot three times also.. She also won the Free for All Trot there. She had 142 starts in all a tribute to her attitude and toughness. She held several New Zealand records. She was the fastest female miler in New Zealand for some years and also held the outright record for a time. She set a 2700m record time of 3:26.6 in 1996 and reduced that to 3:24.7 the following season and later set a mobile record of 3:24.9. That year she also set an all sex 2200m standing start record of 2:47.9. Truly a remarkable record. "She was always a lovely horse to do anything with'' Mark recalls. Pride of Petite raced over nine seasons and 11 of her wins were in Australia, an impressive record. She won over $395,000 there, almost as much as she won in New Zealand. But that was not the end of her legacy. At stud Pride of Petite has produced two high class daughters in Petite Sunset and Petite Sunrise. At the inaugural Harness Jewels at Ashburton in 2007 Mark Purdon was co-trainer and driver of Petite Sunrise for Frank Weaver when the little filly took out the $100,000 two year old trotters division. The Petite wheel had turned full circle for both owner and driver.

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Brabham

Brabham numbered the Victoria Cup and the New Zealand Free For All among his triumphs in a 20 win career and yet with a slice of luck it could have been an even better record than that. As it was he won that many races and $720,000 for the Purdon stables but posted no less than 19 second placings-many of them in major races. Brabham went amiss while on a fourth New Zealand Cup preparation. By then there might have been question marks over his 3200m record, but no question of his class. Bred by Anne and Steve Phillips and raced initially on lease (a right of purchase was later exercised) , Brabham did not race at two but descended on the scene in style as a late three year old winning his first three races and coninuing his winning sequence after a second placing at his fourth start. In fact he won seven of his first nine starts, some of them in the Roy and Barry Purdon colours before he joined Mark's team when he struck out training on his own. Put aside after being disqualified at Kumeu when fifth, he made his debut for Mark Purdon at Addington in August 1995, beating Hoppy's jet and Blossom Lady. He was later second to Desperate Comment on that trip before coming back south to run third to Burlington Bertie in the Ashburton Flying Stakes before a fourth placing in the New Zealand Cup run in close to four minutes, the race won by stablemate Il Vicolo. He was also the only horse to beat Brabham in the New Zealand Free for All on that trip. Brabham had to settle for another minor placing in the Auckland Cup, won by Burlington Bertie but then bowled his nemesis Il Vicolo in what is now the City of Sails Free for All at Alexandra Park running 1:57.8 for the mile. In 1997 Mark Purdon, who had his problems with Brabham, a horse which tended to need long spells, began a swimming regime with the gelding and there was even more success in store for Brabham's owners the 14 strong RUNVS syndicate whose members were largely employees of the Auckland Trotting Club. That October he beat star stablemate, Sharp and Telford, in the North Shore Stakes and while failing to stay the 3200m of the New Zealand Cup/ But four days later, in the hands of Tony Herlihy, he finally broke his New Zealand Free for All hoodoo. Second in both the two previous years, he trailed the hot favourite, Iraklis, and just put his nose in front on the line. It was his first Group One success. Mark Purdon has his most pleasant memory of Brabham when he collected $175,000 for winning the Victoria Cup in 1998 beating Our Sir Vancealot with Tony Herlihy again doing the honours, but his disappointment was in the Auckland Cup a few months before. "He probably should have won that one. There was a shuffle up at a vital stage and we got pushed out. He still got to the front and I thought we were home but Kates First came along the rail and beat him. It was a top effort'' The Victorian Cup win was followed by a first up win in Sydney in the Cullens of Concorde Mile in but failed in his main mission, the Ben Hur, after being checked in the running. Brabham resumed in the spring of 1998 winning at Alexandra Park but had little luck during the southern spring until the last night of the meeting when he beat the open class pacers, his last win on the track. He ran fourth in the Auckland Cup and second in the Cambridge Flying Mile to the champion Christian Cullen who paced a remarkable 1:54.1 to win the race. "It would be fair to say that he found 3200m races a little bit far for him. But he was a high class horse and very consistent'' Brabham was certainly that. From 77 starts he won 20 races, was 19 times second and nine times third. In many of the rest of his starts, especially in New Zealand, he was rarely further back than fourth.

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Young Rufus

Mark Purdon went through a lot of highs and some huge lows with YOUNG RUFUS but in the end he was one of the best horses the trainer has produced with earnings from stakes in big races of a decade ago of over $1m from 22 wins. "I can't really pick between the Victoria Cup and the Auckland Cup as the one which was his best race. I am quite happy to put the two together'' he said. "When he got sick like that -and I thought quite a few times we were going to lose him-he could never be as good again as he had been. So it is fair to say we never saw his best'' Young Rufus was purchased on the deeds of his half-brother Captain Rufus but Mark didn't get to drive him for his first six starts. Garth Dixon, then with Mark, drove him when he won his only start at two and , Tony Herlihy and Anthony Butt all had winning turns in his early three year old career. Tony drove him when he was second in the Sires Stakes Final to Franco Heir in November 2000. Later that summer he made up for that winning the NZ Derby for Mark in 3:18 before making a winning Australian debut in lesser company. As an early four year old Young Rufus won three on the trot in Canterbury including a big double at the cup meeting when he won the Junior Free For All on cup day in a slick 2.22 and then caused an upset in the New Zealand Free for All beating the cup winner Kym's Girl after dictating the terms. "It went pretty well the way I wanted it with a horse still lacking the experience of the others'' Mark said. A Free for All victory for a horse which did not start in the NZ Cup was a rare event. After two top Australian wins over the summer, Young Rufus took out the Messenger Championship at Alexandra Park and ws then set for the NZ Cup. In the hands of Anthony Butt he won the Ashburton Flying Stakes (Mark was handling Jack Cade in which he had a share in this period) but ran sixth in the cup and Anthony on Yulestar pushed him into second in the Free For All. Then came a golden campaign which netted the Victoria Cup in December 2002 and the Auckland Cup two starts later running 4.00.5 for the trip and gaining his revenge on Yulestar.

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The Court Owl

THE COURT OWL had a mixed career in that he was the best in the country as a two and three year old but did not race at four during which time he underwent a wind operation. He bounced back to winning form at five though he was never again the force he had been earlier in his career. Beaten half a head by Kamwood Kango in the $180,000 sales race, he returned to beat Iraklis in the Sires Stakes Final. At that stage he was still trained by Bill Kitcher who raced him with Geoff Hutchinson. He also went down in the Juvenile Championship. Mark took him over as a three year old. He was unlucky to be second again in the three year old Sales Pace but bounced back to beat Spirit of Zeus in the Great Northern Derby and he added the New Zealand Derby a few weeks later. He ended up winning 15 races for his connections and close to $500,000 in stakes. 

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BUSTER HANOVER

 Mark Purdon did not take BUSTER HANOVER until April 1997 after having driven him in five of his first seven wins for owner Bill Pemberton but he certainly made a difference to the horse's career once he had done so. In 1998 Buster Hanover, driven by Tony Herlihy, gave Mark his third successive training success in an Inter Dominion Trotting Final. Pride of Petite had won the previous two and it was she that Mark drove on Final night. Buster Hanover had won the New Zealand Trotting Championship and he later won the Australian Trotting Championship as well. He was cared for during his Australian campaigns by Gareth Dixon who was later to make his own impression in the training world. Buster Hanover won 10 races on his seven year old campaign. The following season, driven by Mark, he won the Garden City Handicap at the Addington Easter meeting in 4:05.8 and was second to Lyell Creek in the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup. He won in all 25 races from 88 starts and over $557,000 in stakes. 

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