Nathan Purdon could only think of one person when Oscar Bonavena swept past his rivals to win the group 1 Dominion Trot at Addington yesterday.
The injury-plagued trotter was at his scintillating best when unleashing a stunning burst of speed to win the most sought-after prize in New Zealand trotting.
Oscar Bonavena was raced by the patriarch of the Purdon harness racing dynasty, champion trainer Roy Purdon, until his death in February last year.
Nathan Purdon, who trains the speedster in partnership with his father, Mark, said he could not help but think of his grandfather as Oscar Bonavena powered to victory.
"I thought of him as the horse ran past them in the straight — it really added to the emotion of the win," Purdon said.
"He always followed the horse and was interested in what he was doing and how he was going.
"Even though he couldn’t be here to see it, the win is still very special."
Oscar Bonavena was something of a forgotten horse leading into this year’s Dominion. Muscle Mountain was the headline act following a string of brilliant spring performances.
Harness racing fans were left shocked when the favourite could not stride out properly, being pulled out of the race with a lap to go with a suspected atrial fibrillation.
Soon after, Mark Purdon was angling Oscar Bonavena into a perfect spot, allowing the trotter to be saved to deliver his lethal burst of speed.
A group 1 Dominion brings satisfaction to any harness racing trainer, but the battle to get Oscar Bonavena to peak for the time-honoured event made it even more special for the Purdon barn.
That’s significant considering the All Stars trainers have just completed yet another domination of New Zealand Cup Week.
"He is incredibly fast; you would struggle to find a trotter like him, he just has blistering speed," Purdon said.
"But right throughout his career, he has had one niggling problem after another."
"It could be a hock of a stifle or a knee; he is constantly had problems."
"He isn’t the type of horse that is going to break down tomorrow, but he is one that we have to constantly manage."
"We have to space his races; we have to be able to get him right between his races and then go again."
"The most frustrating part is that when we get him right, he is very hard to keep right."
"So for him to be at his best for a big day like today is very satisfying."
After Roy’s death, Mark Purdon took over his share in Oscar Bonavena, who is also raced by leading North American trainer, ex-pat Kiwi Chris Ryder.
To make a big week even bigger for the Purdon barn, a matter of minutes later, Self Assured swept home from last to win the group 1 New Zealand Free-For-All, downing the hot favourite, his stablemate Akuta.