John Purvis and his love of the Art Major – Fake Left breeding cross 

 By Duane Ranger 

A three-month spell in late November has been the making of, potentially, the fastest horse that Swannanoa chartered accountant John Purvis has bred. 

That pacer is the son of Art Major and Left In The Dark (Fake Left) – Smoke On The Water – who is trained by Purvis’s son, Matthew, at Woodend Beach.

John Purvis (right)

The 3-year-old gelding proved too good in slick time at Addington Raceway on 11th August when winning the ninth race – the Gold Band Taxis R45-R50 Pace. 

Ricky May did the driving for owners, breeders, and long-time friends – Purvis, Graeme McMaster, and David Lawn. Backed into favourite from the awkward nine draw, Smoke On The Water, won by three quarters of a lengths with a slashing 1:56.5-mile rate – and 57.9 and 28.9 final sectionals. 

Purvis said the big, talented, robust bay had now won three of his 15 starts and placed in six others for $36,418 since he made his race debut on the same track in March last year. 

“He took a while to come to it before winning his only 2-year-old race at Oamaru in October. Then after the Ashburton meeting in November, Matt spelled him for three months and he’s now come back better than ever,” Purvis said. 

Has he what! In eight races this campaign starting with a win at Addington on May 12, Smoke On The Water hasn’t finished further back than third – comprising two wins, three seconds, and three thirds, all at Addington. 

“The break was the making of him. He needed time to develop as a racehorse and Matt has done a splendid job with him and Ricky knows the horse well too and always gives him every chance. 

Smoke on the water’s winning connections, including John, at Addington

“Potentially, he could be the best pacer I’ve bred. He’s certainly one of the fastest. He has an amazing turn of foot and incredible point to point speed,” Purvis said. 

He said his son was likely to take the same training regime with Smoke On The Water’s 2-year-old un-named Vincent half-brother. 

“Matt really likes this colt and thinks he will make a late 2-year-old or early 3-year-old. He has been in work, and is out now for three months . 

“Left In The Dark (2001 Fake Left – Keep It Dark – Holmes Hanover 4-win mare), was a tough mare that always gave of her best on the race-track, is back in foal to Vincent. She’s 21 now and getting on, and this will be her last foal,” the 65-year-old said. 

“They are a tough family, but they need time, and they get better with age. I remember Jack Smolenski driving Kishmul ((1969 Lordship – Kuyaway – Stormy Way three-win mare) in the 1970s, and in human terms she would be Smoke On The Water’s great-great grand-dam. It’s been a real ‘fillies’ family over the years,” he added. 

Purvis said he got into the breed via Smoke On The Water’s grand-dam, the 1989 Holmes Hanover – Kirriemuir – Scottish Hanover one-win mare, Keep It Dark. 

“Graeme bred Kept In The Dark, and we then bred the foals from her, and co-bred all seven foals out of Keep It Dark’s daughter, Left In The Dark – with David Lawn. 

“Since I got involved I think Smoke On The Water is so far, the best from the line. I have purposely tried to introduce speed into the family by crossing Art Major or his son Vincent with daughters of Fake Left. 

“It’s a combination I really like and believe has  worked well both with this family (Smoke On The Water) and many others. Millionaire pacer, For A Reason (2006 Art Major – Left For Me – Fake Left 26-win entire) comes to mind.” 

Purvis said they were also breeding from a daughter of Left In The Dark – foal four (of 7.5) – the 7-year-old Art Major – Left In The Dark one-win mare, Mamma Knows Best. 

“She had absolute speed to burn but sadly we had to retire her after 12 races due to seasonal issues. She left us a Downbytheseaside weanling colt (born on November 11), but sadly died on the mare after three months and she is now in foal to Fear The Dragon,” Purvis said. 

“Graeme, David and I are also breeding from Dancing In The Dark – the 11yo American Ideal Left In The Dark three-win mare, Dancing In The Dark. She is also in foal to Fear The Dragon. That will be her fifth foal.  

“She has left two winners from her first two foals in Dancing On My Own (Bettor’s Delight – Dancing In The Dark (one-from-one win gelding); and Dance With The Boss (3yo Bettor’s Delight – Dancing In The Dark two-win gelding). 

So, if Smoke On The Water is not the best Purvis has bred, who was? 

“From this family I’d say Maximum Power (13yo Bettor’s Delight – Keep It Dark gelding), had the ability to win a lot of races, but unfortunately only raced three times for two wins; and Born To Run – 2014 Bettor’s Delight – Left In The Dark), who won three races before being hit by a virus. 

“However, as a breeder, ‘Oscar’ Bonevena (7yo (Majestic Son – Now’s The Moment – Yankee Jolter 17-win ($392,908) is at the top of the tree – but that is a whole new story. 

Purvis was born in Dunedin and educated at Christchurch Boys High School. The North Canterbury chartered accountant has four children – Sam, Matt, Hayden, and junior driver, Charlotte (21 wins) – who in turn is married to Oamaru equine genius, Matty Williamson. 

Purvis said he moved to Christchurch with his parents when he was 12. 

“Dad and Mum shifted from Dunedin when Les got a job a stipendiary steward at the then New Zealand Trotting Conference in 1969. 

“One of his first race-days was the 1969 New Zealand Trotting Cup when Stella Frost won the race, but was relegated and Pat O’Reilly got promoted behind Spry (4:15.2). The incident happened right in front of him, when he was in the Tanks viewing tower. 

“That was a great introduction to his new job. Thrown in the deep end right from the word go,” Purvis said.