Mark Purdon drives Smolda to victory in the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup.
Smolda is the last winner of a standing start Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup, and he did it in record-breaking style.
Trainer and driver Mark Purdon’s outstanding seven-year-old gelding did all the grunt work and held off Ohoka Punter to win the $500,000 Group 1, with West Australian swooper My Hard Copy placing third.
Nothing came easy for short-priced favourite Smolda, with Ohoka Punter taking the lead from barrier three while Smolda was slowly away and had to work three-wide early in the pace to curl into the breeze.
Purdon showed significant aggression and faith when he pushed Smolda to the lead with two laps to go, enabling Ohoka Punter to take the box seat and expose Messini to the breeze.
After a 2:03.9 lead time in the 3280m race, Smolda guided the pack through in 29.3, 29.4 and 28.4 first, second and third quarters, with Ohoka Punter drawing off Smolda’s back to challenge down the centre of the track once they hit the straight.
While My Hard Copy and Yankee Rockstar made ground out wide late, it was all about the showdown of the Kiwis and in dramatic fashion Smolda gutsed out a ripping victory over Ohoka Punter by a head, with a 2.9m margin to third.
Smolda finished off in a 27.9 final quarter for a 1:57.3 mile rate, breaking the track record by 1.1 seconds, which Arden Rooney set in last year’s A. G. Hunter Cup.
It was enough to excite a trainer/driver who has been there and done most things, but not this.
“This one’s eluded us, so it was nice to get it and be able to say we’ve done it,” Purdon said.
A proud ownership group accepted the A. G. Hunter Cup from Minister for Racing Martin Pakula, with owner Phil Kennard declaring “we’re just absolutely stoked”.
“I’m totally overwhelmed,” Mr Kennard said.
Victorian bred Smolda, out of Courage Under Fire and Under The Mattress, made it a 24th win from 49 starts, and took its winnings to almost $1.3 million.