Ross Purcell on deck for Country Cup campaign after Carrathool success

The Ross Purcell-trained and Michael Heagney-ridden Decker cruised to a three-length victory in Saturday’s $22,000 Carrathool Cup. Image: Sophie O’Brien Photography.

Ross Purcell added a Carrathool Cup to the trophy cabinet on Saturday after Decker’s decisive win in the $22,000 feature. 

Ridden by veteran jockey Michael Heagney in the 1400m event, the seven-year-old didn’t have it all go his way, with the Jerilderie galloper going down on his nose after the start. 

Still, Heagney took the only NSW horse in the field forward, and from there, it was a case of catch me if you can as Decker ($3.40) led the rest of the way to win by three lengths from the fast-finishing Dark Legacy (Josh Richards, $3.30) in second and Eamonn’s Memory (Brad Vale, $3.80) in third. 

While Purcell went to Carrathool confident of victory, he agreed it was a hard watch. 

“He jumped that bloody quick but went down on his nose and knuckled that bad that he was behind them, and then when they come past the dam, he was one-and-a-half lengths in front, so if he had kept his feet, he probably would have led them by four,” Purcell told NSW Country and Picnic Racing. 

“They couldn’t catch him from there, and he won pretty easily in the end.”

Heagney rides Carrathool as well as anyone, winning nine races there over the years at a 20.9 per cent win rate, and Purcell was happy to have him in the saddle. 

“He rides that track well, and he’s ridden heaps of winners there,” Purcell said. 

“He was the go-to man after we decided we were going there, so it was good to get him.”

When asked about Decker’s win, leading the field was always the first option. 

“That was always how we were going to ride him,” Purcell said. 

“Especially out there on the dirt track and with the blinkers on. We know he can lead, and it would have been disappointing if we didn’t.”

There was good from around Decker, who went into the Carrathool Cup following a good second behind the Todd Smart-trained Gundy Guy in the 1200m Benchmark 58 Handicap at Wagga on February 25. 

In that race, Decker was making ground on Gundy Guy, which will take on Sunday’s Canberra Guineas, and he was only beaten one and one-quarter-of-a-length.

“We were rapt with his run at Wagga, and if anything, he was a bit stiff not to win it,” Purcell said. 

“We had the blinkers on him, and he did over-race a little bit in the 1200m, but on Saturday, he only threw his head around a few times, but other than that, he was good.”

Purcell believes Decker has turned the corner and could be one to watch in upcoming Country Cups in the Southern Districts. 

“Now that he has won, that might give him the confidence he needed,” Purcell said. 

“Going to Wagga, his coat came out really good, and he looked a treat.

“I haven’t seen a horse just change in a fortnight like this guy, but he’s been playing and carrying on, and he doesn’t do that. 

“These cups will be the go, and he’ll go to the Berrigan Cup next weekend while he is racing well, and he won’t do much until then, and if he goes well, we’ll find another one for him.”

Purcell described the Carrathool meeting as a ‘bonza day out’, and on the track, Heagney enjoyed a good day at the office, landing a winning double. 

Riding for Wagga trainer Graham Byatt, he won on Unspoken Star ($10) in the 1200m Benchmark 50 Handicap. 

Visiting apprentice Sarah McDonough ventured to Carrathool from Scone, and she rode a winning double. For more on that story, click here