New Zealand Leading Standardbred Trainer
Mark Purdon is unquestionably New Zealand’s leading all round horseman. He recently recorded his 1000th win as a driver and as a trainer. He is also approaching the same mark with over 900 wins to date. Mark’s training achievement is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is that he has only been training on his own account for 15 years.
Mark is now training in partnership with his brother-in-law Grant Payne. Mark and Grant have recently built a “state of the art” training facility at Rolleston just south of Christchurch. The “All Stars” training complex has incorporated a number of innovations including a 1000m straight line training track. Mark got the idea for the straight line training track when he was in Sweden campaigning one of NZ’s best ever trotters, Pride of Petite.
Mark comes from one of NZ’s foremost harness racing families. He is the son of training legend Roy Purdon who is recognised as a master trainer. Mark’s brother Barry runs a successful barn and has recorded many Group 1 wins including the Auckland & NZ Trotting Cups when training in combination with his father Roy.
Mark was the first NZ trainer to race a horse in Australasia wearing a FLAIR® Nasal Strip. That horse was Cool Hand Luke who started in the Victorian Derby in Melbourne. Cool Hand Luke had a very successful career and graduated to open company. Mark has used FLAIR Strips since their introduction on all of his horses including horses such as Bogan Fella, Jack Cade, Born Again Christian and his latest star Auckland Reactor.
Most recently, Mark has been training and driving Aukland Reactor. Auckland Reactor is the super star of NZ harness racing. In 2008 he became NZ’s most valuable standardbred when he sold for $US3.5M to a North American syndicate. To date Auckland Reactor has only been defeated once in 20 starts and that was when he lost 100m from a standing start and ran a sensational time to run second. Auckland Reactor has captured the public’s imagination and is being hailed as NZ’s greatest ever pacer. Auckland Reactor further enhanced his record and reputation with a stunning win on 6th March in the Group 1 Auckland Trotting Cup.
Mark Purdon & Auckland Reactor Mark Purdon & Auckland Reactor-Auckland Trotting Cup 2009
Before Auckland Reactor came along, Il Vicolo was the horse that defined Mark Purdon’s racing career. Even post Auckland Reactor, II Vicolo will always be remembered by harness racing fans and Purdon himself as a horse that 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. Il Vicolo was selected by the New Zealand Post Office to grace a New Zealand stamp being one of six illustrious trotting and galloping performers to hold such an honor in the 1990′s era.
Il Vicolo was the Two Year Old Pacer of The Year, at three he 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. At three years old II Vicolo remained in the colours of the Roy and Barry Purdon stable instead of Mark’s alone.
“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 to the fields 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 license 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.
The following year he became a dual NZ Cup winner and was retired to stud.
“The two New Zealand Cups were the biggest memories for me in my 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.”
Visit Mark Purdon’s website.