Purdon trains in partnership with Natalie Rasmussen, who is a four-time winner as a driver-trainer with Blacks A Fake in her own right, and their All Stars stable has a big hand on the night.
It is the horsesman’s way to work his horses into the series, which has had three sets of heats in eight days in the past fortnight. Horses have to be tough to stand up to the series, and quite often being the best is not enough.
He is not a Lazarus as a four-year-old but he is definitely better than any other horse I have trained at this age and he is getting better.
“At the beginning of this preparation I thought Ultimate Sniper was a good prospect, but I thought he would need this season’s racing to toughen up,” Purdon said of the four-year-old.
“He just didn’t know how to put it together, but we knew he was pretty good.
“It was the junior free-for-all on New Zealand Cup day where I first thought, ‘Gee it might have dropped with you.”
Since that day, Ultimate Sniper is unbeaten, with Rasmussen doing the driving and overcoming wide passages on his way to three wins in his heats. Purdon has never had a horse win a pacers series being so dominant.
Ultimate Sniper is joined by stablemates Ashley Locaz, Chase Auckland, Cruz Bromac and Thefixer.
However, Ultimate Sniper appears to be the horse that has come of age at the right time.
“He could be the best pacer in Australasia after Saturday night,” Purdon said. “He is not a Lazarus as a four-year-old but he is definitely better than any other horse I have trained at this age, and he is getting better.
“It has just happened at the right time. He is doing everything right and has just been incredible in the heats.”
Ultimate Sniper looked beaten when he started to drop out at the 600m in the final night of heats after a tough run three-wide but rallied to win with something in hand.
“Nat knows him very well, and when they were running down the back straight last week, he was only at 90 or 95 per cent. She was saving something for the end. That’s him – he will always find the line and is very tough,” Purdon said.
He will look to win the final on New Zealand Cup winner Cruz Bromac, who is also a heat winner over the final trip last Friday, but admits he will need favours from his second row draw as opposed to Ultimate Sniper.
“He needs things to go right, like they did in the New Zealand Cup,” Purdon said. “He has the advantage of experience, but Ultimate Sniper has a lot of talent.”
Earlier in the night, Purdon will chase a sixth trotters title as trainer and fourth in the sulky when he drives Winterfell in the trotters final.
A surprise winner on the first night of the series, Winterfell had no luck when fourth in the second set of heats before he was too powerful on the third night.
Purdon has learned not to count on Winterfell, which had galloped in both his runs leading into the series.
“He is doing everything right at the moment,” Purdon said. “He is very good but he has let us down in the past. He has the good draw and he likes going right-handed.
“He wears a pole [to keep hin straight] and accepts it well, which a bit of secret to him this way.”
Racing writer for The Sydney Morning Herald