Purdon Racing’s latest “secret weapon” has struck for the stable branch at present based in Melbourne with The Real Sherlock’s shock win in his Victoria Derby heat on Saturday. 

Locals to a man backing Australia’s leading three year old The Lost Storm down to $1.12 meant that even though Sherlock was equal 2nd favourite he was at 12/1 and too strong, the favourite leading up and fading to third.

“That’s what he is capable of when things go our way” Nathan said. “Now we hope he gets the right gate in the final. It makes it difficult if he has to work too hard early. Greg (Sugars) drove him perfectly in the heat”

The unsung heroine of the night however was Brooke Wilkins, an eight month Purdon stable veteran who took over the team when Nathan came home two weeks ago. She will remain in charge until the end of the campaign.

Brooke Wilkins ? No? Well the young lady (24) may be the most experienced stable hand in New Zealand. She has packed a wide variety of experiences into a short career up until now in Australia.

Brooke (pictured) has trained on her own account and driven winners in Sydney and Melbourne since 2017 when Hezbuyindiamonds posted a a win for the Jason Grimson stable with which she was attached at the time.

She worked in several major stables, starting with John McCarthy for 2 years and being based with Amanda Turnbull and David Aiken in Sydney before shifting to Melbourne and doing two years with the powerful Emma Stewart stable -the one who produced the runner-up and the third placed favourite The Lost Storm in Saturday’s heat. Building up a top CV she then turned to Rolleston where so many Australians have contributed to the stable’s great success.

“She approached us about coming here and her original idea was 12 months but we would be happy if it were longer. She is a fine worker and a good horsewoman and her experience is of great value to us” Nathan said.

Brooke Wilkins is steeped in harness history. As veteran fans may remember from the name, her grandfather,Bill Wilkins, was given the stern task back in the 1960’s in preparing Cardigan Bay for a period after one of Cardy’s Inter Dominion tilts when Peter Wolfenden was required at home . He won several races with the champion who was affected by his dropped hip as result of an accident.He  confessed to being in awe of the horse.

Bill Wilkin and Cardigan Bay

 “He could run a half in 57 any time I asked him in training” he once said, in the days when racing at that speed was rarely achieved.

Bill died before Brooke was born but her father,David, was also an accomplished horseman winning at G1 level without quite reaching the heights of his father’s success but also running an equine transport business. Then along came Brooke.

She started with ponies and show horses reaching Royal Show arena success in Sydney and, according to Bill’s wife, Mary, worked harder with her horses than anyone else she knew.

Bill’s widow been a major influence in her career along with her father-and no doubt with a bit of help from her grandfather somewhere up there.

Not long after her first driving success and also fitting in a training career, Brooke was sidelined by a bad training accident later that year and was six months out of the cart with serious leg injuries.A trailing horse on a lead pushed up suddenly knocking Brooke into the  the crossbar heavily and she fell from there-only to be walked over by the lead horse.

It was Emma Stewart who played the  major role in restoring Brooke’s enthusiasm for race driving when soon after her arrival there in 2020  she persuaded her to drive Somewhere Secret for the stable at Melton -and Brooke made her  first race drive since the 2017 accident a winning one.

“After that accident I couldn’t drive for a long time and lost my enthusiasm for race driving.I was going to concentrate just on training but it’s great to be back” she said at the time.

Now Brooke is to play the crucial role in preparing The Real Sherlock for the Victoria Derby and -hopefully- High Energy for the Victoria Oaks, having won on Friday with the third member of the team, High Step. High Energy’s Oaks tilt relies on tests taken Monday after a lacklustre,out of character effort last Friday,

“Brooke is doing well over there and because we have so much on I won’t be going back this week. Brooke is happy, looking after the horses well and catching up with her former Melbourne mates in her spare time” Nathan said.

So when it comes to “pinch hitters” for training for big races there are not many better qualified than Brooke Wilkins






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