In the mini-Lord Module finish to the Free for All at Addington on Friday  when Self Assured, better known as “Jimmy” after attendant James Stephens, reminded fickle punters that they had ignored him all too soon, driver Tony Herlihy was settling a score with brother-in-law Mark that goes back more than 30 years.

Going into the Free for All of 1988 Tony,the number one stable horseman and already veteran of several Addington triumphs,was driving Luxury Liner everyone’s favourite for the race at virtually odds-on.The pair had won the Cup three days earlier,the Free for All the year before

Mark, the veteran of a whole one winning drive in Cup week until then, was handling outsider Tax Credit for the Purdon barn. Tax Credit had been an ignominious last in the Cup breaking at the start. He was paying $57 to win the FFA.

Last laugh


The race was billed as an exciting rematch between Luxury Liner and Aussie star Our Maestro,who having only arrived in Christchurch the day before, was somewhat extravagantly driven by colourful horseman Vinny Knight in the Cup, sweeping to the lead at the 350 but being unable to sustain the long sprint. In the Free for All he could regain mana. If Tax Credit was mentioned it would most likely be by accountants at the races talking shop.

Tax Credit shot out to an early lead from the mobile but Luxury Liner ran a 26.8 quarter to grab the lead. With all favours in the trail Tax Credit, raced by Colin and Patricia Harvey of Dunedin, kept coming at the Cup champ and got his nostril over the line first in a then equal male record time of 2.25.7 for 2000m. Only Armalight had gone faster.Our Maestro, from the visitors draw and no doubt flattened  by his Cup exertions, did well to finish 4th.

The Victors

As an aside the third placegetter, Speedy Cheval, was driven by Peter Ryder who can still be found on any given Saturday driving work at Purdon Racing.

Even though from the strongest stable in the country, Tax Credit’s price was the highest in FFA history.It is a race which has almost always  reflected Cup Day form and famous winning names

On Friday November 17 2023 however  the boot was on the other foot.

Akuta was backed as if unbeatable after Swayzee whose return bout with the Purdon star was to be a copycat Trans -Tasman rematch of 1988,spoilt the party by withdrawing. Self Assured was going through a flat patch though hardly of the scope punters had decided.

His amazing  record of only being further back than 5th  4  times in 61 starts-truly remarkable when most of his races were elite events -and the winner of over $2m including every major event in New Zealand, was overlooked as he suffered from punter ignore.

Not as bad as Tax Credit had, but hovering around $16 when he was almost certainly the only horse in a moderate field who could beat the hotshot and had been 4th in the Flying Stakes before failing on the tight Kaikoura track.It was a really hot drop on a faithful servant by the public.

And so,35 years on,in another Free for All,this time it was Mark looking over his shoulder and Tony surging at him late.

“I knew he was tired” Mark said of Akuta .The clue was  his regular looks back for challenges, no doubt for one  special one from the only other horse in the field in his class and with a driver to match.

“I felt about the quarter he was battling after the hard race Tuesday. I know how good Jimmy is and knew he would be coming for us” Mark reflected.

Both horses are likely to be on hand for free for all racing next month and the Invercargill Cup is on the radar too. 

The Purdon family don’t do revenge and make a point of looking forward not back. Show Day 1988  would not be the last time Mark and Tony would fight out a tight finish.

Yet it is still a strange coincidence that  in this case it should be the elite Free for All in New Zealand 35 years on,same drivers, same situation -and with a reverse twist.


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