Purcell sets Jerilderie galloper for Orange Sprint

Mr Moppett following his win in the $50,000 The Tuckerbox. Image: Jeff Hanson/NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

Ross Purcell is no stranger to a long trip with reliable sprinter Mr Moppett, who will contest the $35,000 Orange Sprint (1010m) on Friday. 

The six-year-old is a seven-time winner.

As a two-year-old, he won the 2020 Silver Apple at Orange, coincidently his only start at the Central Districts racecourse. 

He then won at Corowa (x 2), Leeton, and Swan Hill before the Sizzling gelding took out the 2022 Snake Gully Flying Handicap (1000m) for the late Phil Sweeney. 

Under the care of Purcell, Mr Moppett defended his title in the race, renamed The Tuckerbox in 2023. 

In recent times, the Jerilderie trainer has been racing Mr Moppett south of the border, and he hasn’t been disgraced, finishing close-up fourths in 1000m Benchmark 78 Handicaps at Flemington and Moonee Valley in January before running second to the Ron Stubbs-trained Sparring in a 1000m Benchmark 82 Handicap at Albury in February. 

After another good fourth in a 1000m Benchmark 78 Handicap at Caulfield in March, the enigmatic sprinter finished down the track at Flemington on March 30 when beaten seven lengths in an 1100m Benchmark 78 Handicap. 

Purcell isn’t worried, though, and he is predicting a solid showing at Orange. 

“His Flemington run was a bit disappointing, but they reckon when he was coming onto the course proper, he lost his way a bit,” Purcell told NSW Country and Picnic Racing. 

“If he finished midfield or better, it would’ve been a good run as it was a tough race, but he wasn’t beaten too far, and we’re not taking too much out of it. 

“Previously, he was racing really well and wasn’t too far away, and it was just about finding the right races and giving him that continuity in racing.”

It’s a good field for the Orange Sprint, with Brad Widdup racing last-start Newcastle winner Akaka Falls (Zac Lloyd). 
Six-time winner Blitzar (Shannen Llewellyn) is first-up for new trainer Brett Robb, and the Danielle Seib-trained Smokeshow (Ash Morgan) will be a big improver second-up. 

“When you go through the field, it doesn’t look overly strong at first glance, but there are some good horses in it,” Purcell said. 

“Blitzar goes good, and Akaka Falls is racing consistently, and if you look at any of them, when they’re not winning, they are only getting beat three or four lengths.

“Every race is tough to win, and this one is no different, but he’s going in with some pretty good city form, and we’ll see how he goes.”

Michael Heagney gets the ride, and the Jerilderie visitors draw a tad awkwardly in gate seven. 

“There is a bit of pace in it, so he should be able to sit on their backsides. We hope we don’t have to lead them,” Purcell said. 

“He is a petty tractable horse to ride, and he (Heagney) should be able to ride him where he wants to.”

Despite the draw and long trip, Purcell believes his galloper will be thereabouts when the whips start cracking. 

“You can’t fault his work; the biggest issue is that we can’t get races quick enough,” he said. 

“Earlier, there were a few races, and we were trying to get that shorter gap to have him race fit, but they didn’t fall into place. 

“Other than that, his work is good, and if you take out that run at Flemington, he should go well.”

Purcell will trek to Orange with two chances, and recent Carrathool and Tocumwal Cup winner Decker has drawn the inside gate in the 1310m Benchmark 66 Handicap. 

Decker is a noted speedster, and Michael Heagney takes the ride.

Following a mix-up in which Decker missed a run in Saturday’s Holbrook Cup, Purcell said it could possibly be a ‘blessing in disguise’ as he prepares for the $30,000 event at Orange.

“It is a winnable-looking race,” Purcell said. 

“We missed the $15000 race at Holbrook, but we might win this race, so that would be good. 

“He’s been racing well, and you don’t go broke winning races, and I was going to suggest to the owners that if he won at Holbrook, we then look at a TAB race, so maybe this is that opportunity for him while he is racing well.”

It will be an 11-hour round trip for Purcell’s duo, but the pair are used to it. 

“They have done it right through and are both great travellers,” Purcell said. 

Friday is a big day for Orange, with their eight-race Showcase program headlined by the $75,000 Orange Cup and Big Dance qualifier.