Blair Orange cruises to New Zealand Cup victory

Cruz Bromac holds off Spankem yesterday. Photo / Race Images
Cruz Bromac holds off Spankem yesterday. Photo / Race Images
The most unlikely New Zealand Cup of champion trainer Mark Purdon's career meant so much more because he didn't drive the winner.

Purdon provided the training quinella in the $750,000 New Zealand Cup at Addington yesterday but had to settle for second as a driver as Cruz Bromac surged past his drive Spankem in the last 50m.

But for Purdon the win means as much if not more than if he had clung on to win the race himself because of the man in the sulky behind Cruz Bromac.

Blair Orange has won the last two national driver's premierships but to any Canterbury harness racing driver the New Zealand Cup is the holy grail and Purdon was thrilled to provide his former protege with the chance to get his hands on it.

Orange was a long-time employee of Purdon's famous All Stars barn and a close personal friend of Purdon, who has stuck by him in the toughest of times.

He originally wasn't in the frame to drive Cruz Bromac, who divides his time between Victoria and New Zealand. But through a series of events, including other horses being injured and other drivers being unavailable, Orange got his Cup with an inch-perfect display.

"I am thrilled for Blair," said Purdon.

"He did a great job when he worked for us and has been very successful since he left.

"So to be able to give him the drive on a Cup winner is immensely satisfying for us. He is a good guy and he deserves it.'' Orange sure did after the drive he pulled off, firstly managing to negotiate the standing start safely with Cruz Bromac, who rejoined the All Stars only three weeks ago after spending the year in Victoria. They don't have standing starts in Victoria any more so that first mini win was crucial.

Once safely away he had to wrest the lead off Classie Brigade and that could have left him vulnerable as Cruz Bromac is probably best known as a sprinter but the sedate Cup speed of 3:56.9 and the inches Orange saved around the marker pegs proved the difference.

He grabbed Spankem, who had worked to the lead at the 1400m mark late to win by a neck, with Classie Brigade slightly luckless when forced to change ground in the home straight in third just ahead of Chase Auckland. Defending champion Thefixer was a battling fifth.

There was great irony in Orange partnering Cruz Bromac to win as he had driven him in public only once before.

That was when he failed to even qualify him in an early trial when Cruz Bromac was trained by Mark Jones before being sold to Australian interests and then coming back across this side of the Tasman to join the All Stars last year.

He won the NZ Free-For-All then and could return to that race this Friday and now looms as a major contender for the Inter Dominions which begin at Alexandra Park in 16 days.

Cruz Bromac's win yesterday ticked him just over $1 million in stakes and suggests the Australians could have a far greater role to play in the Inter Dominions than would have been expected even a few weeks ago.

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