Mark Purdon  plans a change of direction, relocating  to Matamata in the near future and taking  a  step back from  a  memorable  career as a full- time  harness trainer.

Mark will remain a partner for the immediate future with  son, Nathan,largely in an advisory role as consultant and  supervisor  of horses shifting north as necessary.

“The move is chiefly  for  personal reasons.My partner,Barbara Hunter, is based at Matamata and It will also mean a  transition from  training on a daily basis. My priorities have changed.” Mark said

He will take his small thoroughbred team north with him but they are to be quartered with successful Matamata horseman,Glenn Old.

“I still hope to be involved in some way but they will race under Glenn’s name and I have found him an ideal horseman to deal with up here and successful in that role”

 Barbara,a distinguished veterinary surgeon originally from Canada, is a partner in  the  elite New Zealand horse treatment centre,Matamata Veterinary Services,where the pair first met.

 Mark  is widely regarded as the most successful harness trainer New Zealand has produced, and certainly  of the 21st century. His father, Roy, and elder brother, Barry,  dominated the Harness Premiership for nearly 20 seasons before Mark began his own operation in 1995.Especially since moving to Canterbury in 2000 he has dominated in most fields, often on both sides of the Tasman.

Mark also ranks as probably  the most underrated big race driver in Australasia, his judgment of pace and coolness under pressure a byword in hundreds of Group One battles. The current leading driver, Blair Orange,was just one to benefit from Mark’s experience and advice at All Stars and to acknowledge that assistance.

Barry remains the the leading all- time trainer in New Zealand with well over 2600 winners while Mark, who had previously trained over 900 winners on his own account, added to that with partners Grant Payne (558) Natalie Rasmussen (898) Hayden Cullen (129) and now Nathan (102) has  2595 winners in New Zealand and over $68m in stakes won.

Added to that is millions won in Australia where nearly every major event has fallen to him at least once.

Mark’s stable  has  won 14 of the last 23 Premierships, including six in succession  with his former partner,Natalie Rasmussen, from 2014-a run which only ended when the stable closed during Covid.

 His stable record in Australia covers many bases in  elite events across that country including nine  Inter Dominion Finals; two Miracle Miles and Hunter Cups;and a long list of G1 age group victories including multiple Oaks and Derby events across the three Eastern States. 

Especially memorable were back- to- back Inter Dominion championships in Perth because of different  challenges for visiting trainers compared to most Inter Dominion venues.Environmental conditions in  the hottest time of the year can be a tough ask for both horse and human 

“Lazarus has been the best horse we have had so far and his record speaks for itself.He was great there, but I also have a special memory of Smolda’s win because his was  first and like us he had to overcome the hurdles we faced on a learning curve. He was a great horse too.We were lucky to have so many up to those  standards.”

A feature of the Mark Purdon- led stable success has been its high strike rate even when the Rolleston teams peaked in numbers. It was always superior to similar sized rivals,often notably so.Another huge factor has been his unrivalled ability to select yearlings,from all price ranges and gaits, and on both sides of the Tasman.

Mark’s impact on the harness racing sport is therefore unprecedented and may fairly be described as legendary throughout  Australasia.

However at 60, he feels all good things must come to an end and will leave Rolleston  without regrets.

“I have felt that physically it has become a little harder and maybe I have lost that sharp  edge of the  enthusiasm you need  to run a big team. Nathan is going so well in his own right, and Michael too.It is the right time to step back from a hands- on role”

“I have had a great innings and value the help from many people in a sport that has been very good to me and such a big part of my life. That will continue on a reduced scale but it’s time  now  for the next chapter  with  Barbara and I am looking forward to what that brings”


If it’s any match for the book of achievement so far  it will continue to be a great read.


Some  stable highlights 

** Mark Purdon-led stables have  been the champion stakes earner for 21 of the last 24 seasons-every one in which it has operated for a full term.It has won close to  300 Group One races across Australasia.

**All Stars have won the premier Kiwi harness race,the New Zealand Cup over 3200m, not only  a record eight times but six of them in the space of seven years an unheard of domination of the great race.

**All Stars, then in partnership with Natalie, produced a record 8 Premier winners on Cup Day at Addington in 2018 (12 races) , the greatest tally  on one card by any stable in New Zealand’s  history of horse racing.They included the NZ Cup and the Sires Stakes Final.The stable ran the quinella in four of the events. It also won seven races at a major  Addington  meeting which were the only horses started. It  twice won seven races on Premier cards at Alexandra Park.

**All Stars have twice produced 30 or more  Group One winners trans- Tasman in one season. In 2019 at the prestigious  Australian Miracle Mile meeting the stable won Group One’s with Thefixer (Allied Sprint); Spankem (Canadian Club/ Miracle Mile);Princess Tiffany (NSW Oaks) and Dream About Me (Ladyship Mile)

**Mark’s stables have dominated the New Zealand Derby with no less than 14 wins in the classic since 1995 and they have  won the Two Year Old Sires Stakes Final  a similar number of times.They have record multiple wins in many age group races including Harness Jewels events.

**In 2014 the stable produced 20 individual two year old winners, a record for a New Zealand-based stable that still stands.

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