YEAR: 2012



Hands Christian well and truly announced his arrival on to the big stage with a thrilling win in a grand finish to Saturday night's Easter Cup at Addington.

Not that the Christian Cullen gelding hasn't been in the limelight since he began his career in earnest as a spring 3-year-old, when it took Gold Ace to narrowly down him in the Sires Stakes, but the more recent version is proving a much more mature model and this was his first G1 win when he has looked fallible at times in the past. "He has been a bit of a late developer, both physically and mentally, but he has shown glimpses of genuine ability at times," said Mark Purdon. "We've had some very big offers along the way, but I'm quite pleased we kept him now," he added.

One of those glimpses was at the Jewels last year when Hands Christian split Gold Ace and Terror To Love in a similarily nose and head grandstand finish, but he has sort of been living in their shadow for much of the time. Gold Ace and Terror To Love have seemingly been waging a private war, with the recent Superstars being just a return to their epic encounters as late 3-year-olds, but Hands Christian has always been lurking and on this occasion he beat them both fairly and squarely and on their merits.

After bobbling away and missing the start by 10-12 lengths, Hands Christian bided his time towards the tail of the field and he still had only Franco Ledger behind behind him at the 600m. Purdon began his charge soon after and flushed Terror To Love for a drag into the race, but coming wide from so far back hardly seemed a recipe for success at the time. But this had been a solidly run affair on a cool and windy night and the race would be one of quickly changing complexions as class became the biggest factor.

Just as the doughty Mah Sish had put Franco Emirate away early in the run home, Gold Ace and Terror To Love loomed alongside and seemed all set to go at it again. For once Terror To Love was obviously going to get the better of Gold Ace, off the back of a kinder trip for a change, only for Hands Christian to bomb them both right on the line. A time of 4:04 was more than respectable in the conditions and Hands Christian had come home in 56 and 27 and change to get around them.

"I sort of set him for this when we decided against a start in the Auckland Cup. He was very unlucky in the Superstars when I decided to try for an inside run on the home turn and he never really got clear. I thought we'd wait for Easter when he might have got a bit of a head start on the good ones. Things didn't work out that way, but he still got the job done."

This was just another outstanding Premier carnival performance from the all conquering Purdon & Payne stable, a G1 double on Saturday night being complemented by three supporting acts by Trilby, Harrison Maguire and Southwing Arden, and following on from Escapee's Trotting Oaks and Derby double and the quinella in the NZ Derby. The All Stars Stable won 14 races and well over $300,000 in stakes over the three nights, taking their seasonal tallies to 101 wins and $1.85m, the latter figure easily more than twice any other stable. And just to cap things off, the Easter Cup was a race the stable co-sponsored.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 12Apr2012

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