Auckland Reactor, he says, is faster,
tougher and just simply, better.
    I have only seen Auckland Reactor in
the flesh once, on New Zealand Cup day
last November when on the same program
the New Zealand Sires Stakes Final for
three-year-olds is an added, and much anticipated support race. (Note, Standardbreds celebrate their birthdays on September 1 downunder.)
    All the best three-year-olds from
both islands come together for $185,000
to decide the early season star. Auckland
Reactor, having just his fifth race start,
made a statement that day by coming
from last mid-race, sitting parked outside
the leader, then embarrassing the best
down the stretch, winning by one and
three-quarter lengths.
    Purdon had told me the day before
he felt Auckland Reactor had that x-factor
about him, that indefinable something
that sets horses apart. So, armed with
that information I backed the horse
in the final. Backing a winner is always
good, but on this day, something better
happened. I saw a horse that made me
take a step back and pay attention.
    From his barrier (post) draw of 17 and
three wide mid-race, eventually parked
outside the leader, he had no right to win.
I left the track that day truly believing I
had seen something very special.
    As it turns out, that Sires Stakes win
on New Zealand Cup day was just an
entrée to the real stuff.
    Purdon carefully and meticulously
planned this horse’s racing path. By the
time he got to the $200,000 New Zealand
Derby on April 4th this year, the horse was
still unbeaten in nine outings, and in fact
still no horse had got close to him in a race.
    Contested over a grueling 2,600
metres (a mile and five-eighths) on the
1,200 metre Addington track, Auckland
Reactor was an ‘unbackable’ favourite,
but not even Mark Purdon could believe
what was about to unfold.
    His wide front line draw (seven) forced
Purdon to ease at the start, but trapped
wide he eventually was forced to go
forward on a hot pace. With 1,100 metres
to go he finally found the lead, but had to
pace a 56.8 second half-mile to get there.
    The rest is history, and fairly unique
and special history at that. His winning
margin was three lengths. The winning
time (3:09.4) for the 2,600 metres slashed
almost two seconds off the National
three-year-old record (ironically held by
Holmes D G, a great three-year-old of the
past trained by Barry Purdon).
    This time was just 9/10ths of a second outside the open age National record of 3:08.5, set by Desperate Comment during the 1995 Inter Dominion series at the same track, and in unforgettable circumstances.
    He came his last mile in 1:56.8, his
last half-mile in 55.9, last quarter in 27.1
seconds and Purdon never touched him.
“He really is astounding. I can’t
believe the ease in which he does things.
There’s no doubt that I could have broken the all age record if I’d wanted,” Purdon says now.
    “He’s the best I’ve had. Il Vicolo was
a great horse for me, and he’s a great
measuring stick now, but I have to say
this horse is better. He could be anything, just anything. The ease in which he does things astounds me,” he adds.

    Purdon was quoted immediately
after that now famous New Zealand
Derby saying Auckland Reactor was “a
three-year-old who feels and acts like a
five-year-old.”
    In the days since I spoke with Purdon,
the horse has traveled further south of
Christchurch to Invercargill, for a $48,500
Stakes final race.
    He won for fun by two and threequarter lengths, and sizzled home his last half-mile in 54 and last quarter in
25.9 seconds, again under no pressure.
Those sectional times are unheard of in
this part of the world because of our longer distance racing, and
smaller tracks (than North America).
    So, Auckland Reactor is now 11 from 11 for $358,100 in
stakes, with seemingly the world at his feet.
    Purdon’s plan is to give him an official workout at Motukarara on May 16, before tackling the $200,000 Harness Jewels Final at Ashburton on May 31. The horse will then be spelled (rested) before
tackling open age racing as a four-year-old.
    Purdon talks about the possibility of racing in the New Zealand Cup, over 3,200 metres (two miles) against the toughest open age pacers, or maybe concentrating on shorter distance
races in the short term. He says the $600,000 Miracle Mile in Sydney
in late November is a definite target, as is the $200,000 New Zealand Free For All (2,000m) two weeks earlier (three days after the New Zealand Cup).
    In 12 months time the Brisbane Inter Dominion will provide
a $1.6 million final, and there’s a strong possibility of a $1 million
World Cup two weeks later. If he was to tackle those races
he’d be taking on Blacks A Fake and perhaps several of North
America’s best open age pacers.
    For his lucky former owner, retired veterinary surgeon Tony
Parker, Auckland Reactor was a gift from the racing gods.
    Parker is a guy who has worked in the racing game all his life. His work is his hobby, highlighted by the fact he and his wife Anne have raced horses since 1970. They now breed five or six
every year. Auckland Reactor is one of those foals. His granddam
was one of the first horses they ever raced.

    His mother Atomic Lass, a Sokys Atom (by Albatross) mare was able to win just two races from 13 starts, but at 19 years of age she produced Auckland Reactor. According to Parker he broke in without any fanfare, before being moved to Purdon’s barn for further education and assessment.
    “He was a nice enough two-year-old, but because he wasn’t staked for anything, we didn’t push him. I remember driving him in his first workout and he was third. I liked what he did. Like I say, he was never pushed as a young horse, but he showed us
enough,” Purdon says.
    Auckland Reactor did not race as a two-year-old, but after winning an official trial “in impressive fashion,” according to Purdon, he was put aside with ambitious plans for his threeyear-
old campaign.
    But no one, not Parker or Purdon, or anyone who saw him trial, could have predicted what lay ahead.
     And now the future for Auckland Reactor is uncertain. Where will he continue his racing career? Will it be here or there? At this stage we do not know. But I promise you this.
Whatever happens, the world will know about Auckland ‘The Atomic’ Reactor soon enough.
    He just may be a champion in the making and I suggest you
underestimate him at your own peril.

Neale Donnelley is a long time racing journalist who covered the sport for 20 years for the Melbourne Sun. He now
hosts a daily radio program dedicated to racing.



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