YEAR: 2009


Despite the myriad of training successes they have enjoyed, something still manages to keep Mark Purdon and his training cohort Grant Payne guessing. Her name's Pocaro. The Sundon filly enjoyed being back against her own gender again in last Friday night's NZ Trotting Oaks at Addington, and after getting around from her unruly draw to lead the 1950 metre Group 3 event, she clung gamely to the task to hold out a spirited bid from Jumanji Franco. Both horses broke late in the piece, and Purdon was left scratching his head about the winner's performance.

"On her training this week I thought she would've won for fun," he said afterwards. But it was a better showing from her, because at least she (almost) got around in one piece." As a 2-year-old Pocaro had one speed - full bore. She's calmed down a bit in that regard this season, but has still got a tendency to voer-race early, which is why her trainers placed her on the unruly in a bid to curb that enthusiasm.

As Pocaro has shown throughout her career though, when she's good she's very good, but the trouble in more recent times has been her breaking during the running. All Stars Stables has left no stone unturned trying to get to the bottom of the problem, with Purdon saying that she has undergone extensive examinations on numerous occasions with her vet Bill Bishop, also having her joints injected and even having a chiropractor look over her. But he still believes that the Sundon filly may be sore somewhere. "Sher would be a great candidate for that treatment where they pump a blue dye through a horse's system and it shows up all the hot spots. I think it's something I'll have to talk about with the owners."

Pocaro is raced by Trevor Casey, Jim and Tim Wheelan, Stephen Ward and Shane Hausler, and so far she has won the quintet over $85,000 - the result of seven victories from 13 outings, two of the Group 3s. "She is a very strong trotter, with a lot of speed," Purdon enthused. "We will go up north with her now, for three races. She thrives on trips away, and has won up there before so she could well be safer the Auckland way around."

Credit: John Robinson writing in HR Weekly 8Apr09


YEAR: 2008


Steve McRae warned she was good. And he was right, we just hadn't seen the full extent of Jumanji Franco's talent until she won the $30,000 NRM NZ 2YO Trotting Stakes at Addington last Friday night.

Despite working hard from a wide marble to eventually hit the front, Jumanji Franco had plenty in reserve when the challengers came calling at the end, needing little more than a chirp up from driver Craig Thornley to score by a length and a half. It was the third outing and first victory for the daughter of CR Commando, and afterwards Thornley paid tribute to McRae for getting her to peak at the most important stage of the season. "Steve's timed her preparation to perfection - just like he did with Jacanti Franco," Thornley said, referring to this time last year when Jumanji Franco's year older half-sister took out the NRM Sires' Stakes 2yo Trotters Championship at start number two.

That event is this Saturday, and now the pair's dam Jaguar Franco has a very real chance of a noteworthy back-to-back double. "Her blood wasn't right during the week, so if anything she should improve," Thornley claimed. "She's got a lovely way of going, this filly. And it's better when they eyeball her, because she concentrates then; otherwise she's looking all round the place."

McRae hasn't trained many trotters in his time, and after the "freakish ability" Jacanti Franco showed he thought he'd never get another one as good. Seems he was wrong about that, but he's not complaining. "Jumanji's a completely different type to Jacanti," McRae said, meaning not only their builds. "Jacanti had a few tricks, and didn't like the grit in her face for a start. But Jumanji's never galloped at home in her life. The best thing about Jumanji is probably her gait. She's very light on her feet, and everything's very effortless to her. You'd hardly get excited about her in training, because she just flops about on a loose rein - but she's a real professional," he said.

The dogs were barking about Jumanji Franco at a very early stage though, and the filly was sold for a six-figure sum to Victorian enthusiast Peter Chambers before she'd even qualified. "That's how much we thought of her," McRae said. "I've never met the guy actually. He's a mate of Ted Demmler's, and that's where Jumanji will be heading after the Jewels. It'll be a shame to loose her, but that's the nature of our business I suppose; it's happened before, and it'll happen again." McRae says that with the Jewels these days its a big enough season for baby trotters, and given a decent three to four-month spell after Cambridge Jumanji Franco should come back "a really nice horse at three".

As for Jacanti Franco, who's by Continentalman, she's all but recovered from her tendon injury and should be back in work towards the end of June. "Hopefully she'll resume sometime in Spring. We'll see if we can make up for lost time, and win some stakes so we can target the Jewels with her next year," McRae said.

Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 7May08

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