The Reactor aims for unbeaten record
Sunday 30th November
At first, Tony Parker's statement seemed to be verging on ridiculous, spawned by the emotion of the moment in the Alexandra Park victory circle.
"He might stay unbeaten, mightn't he?" said Parker after watching Auckland Reactor smash yet another record in winning the Pak 'N Save Franklin Cup to take his unbeaten sequence to 15.
But the man who sold Auckland Reactor for $4 million gained an unlikely ally a few minutes later in co- trainer and driver Mark Purdon.
Almost lost for words over the enormity of the Reactor's performance, running unheard-of sectionals in his first race right-handed, Purdon stated bluntly: "I can't see him being beaten, barring bad luck."
And this from an analytical Purdon, divorced from the near- hysteria of the after-race scenes when an emotional Franklin Trotting Club president Ross Wilson likened the reception given the horse to the halcyon days of harness racing in New Zealand, in the eras of Delightful Lady and Cardigan Bay.
"I've given up being surprised by this horse, he's amazing," Purdon said of Auckland Reactor, who was privately timed to run the 3200 metres post-to-post in 3min 56.5sec, sprinting his last mile in an unheard of 1:53.4, a second faster than Christian Cullen's Miracle Mile win of 1998 and eight-tenths of a second faster than Iraklis's record Miracle Mile of 1996.
"Maybe he will stay unbeaten," Purdon said. "Things won't always go your way and all the opposition are out there trying to beat you, but we've never had one like him in this part of the world before."
Purdon said if Auckland Reactor was going to be beaten this season, last Friday night's standing start cup, run right-handed, was where he might have come unstuck.
Purdon revealed he'd never trained the horse hard right- handed until the previous week, after he'd shown a tendency to hang in when tried the unfamiliar way round as a three-year-old.
"He used to train in a pole and I was reluctant to take the risk of racing him right-handed, but he's just so much stronger this time in.
"He drove perfectly the whole race and there was nothing there to push him at the finish. I'd say he would have given more."
That's a remarkable claim in itself given Auckland Reactor was credited with a time of 3:59, half a second faster than Chokin's 1993 track record, and ran his last 2400 metres in a sizzling 2:53.6 camped first three-wide, then facing the breeze over the last lap.
"I was sweating more than him halfway through the race. You have to have your doubts about winning when you're that far back."
All of 20 lengths from tearaway pacemaker Chesterton, Purdon managed to flush out first Phillip Butcher on Awesome Armbro and then Anthony Butt on Bachelorette to get a drag into the race.
"We were that far back we had to start making a move. It was cat- and-mouse there for a while but it started the train going. I was pleased I didn't have to do it on my own."
Purdon said he'd never driven a horse before who could maintain top speed for so long and when he "monstered" Chesterton on the home turn, the Reactor simply kept going. "He just maintained his speed and the others got tired."
Purdon said the display guaranteed Auckland Reactor would be back in March for the $600,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup (mobile 2700m).
It also eased fears that Auckland Reactor would not be competitive at the top level in standing starts.
"Tonight was the best he's felt at the start. He took two bounds and then he got into his gear. If Awesome Armbro hadn't pushed me down, and I'd got a clear run, he felt like I could have given him his head.
"If that's as bad as he is, there's not much to worry about."
Auckland Reactor has only one further standing start race on his agenda this season - the $60,000 Futurity Stakes (2700m) for four-year- olds at Cambridge in January.
He said while most up-and- comers took time to adjust to the tempo of open-class racing, Auckland Reactor had taken it all in his big stride.
But he would not make any long-term commitment to the Interdominions on the Gold Coast, a three-race series which starts just a week after the Auckland Cup.
"I'd rather not set anything in concrete. We'll make the decisions as we go along."
Auckland Reactor had such a tremendous recovery rate and laid- back attitude, few assignments would be beyond him. "He's so intelligent and just works so well with you, it's part of his make-up."
Source: BARRY LICHTER of the Sunday Star Times