A Zac Purton treble dominated events at Happy Valley on Wednesday, April 18, with the premiership title chaser reaching a career landmark and bagging the night’s trophy race for good measure.
The former champion was in the zone from the outset, driving the David Ferraris-trained Raichu to a short-head win in the Class 5 opener. The +130 favourite will go down in the records as Purton’s 800th Hong Kong win.
“I’m happy with that – it’s a nice number to get to. Now everyone can start talking about something else,” Purton quipped after becoming only the fourth rider in Hong Kong history to reach a century eight times over.
The Australian reached 798 with a five-timer on 23 March but suspensions had limited him to only one race meeting since. That was on 8 April when a single score took him to 799.
The milestone reached, Purton followed up in race two on 4.5 chance Savannah Wind and completed an accomplished three-timer aboard Fast Most Furious (125lb) in the Class 3 Hong Kong Rugby Union Cup Handicap (1200m).
The latter had been the cause of a two-meeting suspension for Purton when an unlucky second at the course and distance last month. The Lope De Vega five-year-old made amends in fine style this evening at odds of 2.8, stretching out to a two-length score over the Joao Moreira-ridden Double Valentine (115lb).
“I was hoping he’d perform like that again tonight, backing up his great run from last time, and he went out and did it,” Purton said after edging to within 12 of champion jockey Moreira in the title race,
“As he’s gone on he’s learnt more about racing here in Hong Kong, he’s become sharper at doing everything. He began really well, he put himself in a great spot, the speed was perfect and I had a lovely run.
“He’s a handy horse going forward because I don’t really think that’s his distance and he’s got a lot of nice attributes,” he added.
Fast Most Furious was trainer David Hall’s eighth win of a frustrating campaign and his first since 18 February – the handler has had 10 seconds in the interim.
“This horse was hard work when he first arrived,” Hall said. “It took him a long time to adapt and we didn’t expect to see him doing this – in his first couple of trials he was pretty unimpressive and took a while to handle the firmer ground. He’s become a bit solid in the last six months and coping a lot better.
“Everyone saw how unlucky he was last start. There should be a little more improvement to come and a few more wins in store.”
Yeung doubles up
Jockey Keith Yeung sealed a race-to-race double when Clear Choice (118lb) held Split Of A Second (118lb) by half a length to win the Class 4 Ewo Challenge Trophy Handicap (1200m). That followed Art Of Raw’s show of stamina in the preceding Class 4 Kowloon Tsai Handicap (2200m).
Clear Choice rewarded favourite backers at +140. Danny Shum’s charge had signalled his intent at his previous start when second at the course and distance. The four-year-old earned a breakthrough win at start nine after stalking the pace and then driving to the lead with 100m to go.
“He took a few runs to start to acclimatise to Hong Kong,” Yeung said. “They’d been trying to find his racing pattern, so last time we put him near the front and he finished off well, so we kept it that way tonight. He’s a nice, honest horse that tries really hard.
“I think he’s still growing and 1200 is not his best distance so in time he’ll go up over farther.”
Shum landed a brace of his own with Clear Choice following Savannah Wind’s opening strike.
“Keith said after the last race that he believed the horse would be better over a longer distance, but I decided to still focus on 1200m here first,” the trainer said. “I planned to have one more race at this winning distance at his next start, and then see how he went on from that – he seems to have grown in confidence race by race.”
Yeung teamed with trainer Francis Lui to take the night’s third contest at odds of 18/1.
“Art Of Raw is a bit of a morning glory, he always works well, but when he’s come to the races he’s been a disappointment,” Yeung said of the French import, who broke through at his 14th Hong Kong start.
“We couldn’t figure him out so we put him over a longer distance because he won over 2000 metres in France and today the race just went for him. He had the light weight and the barrier and the tempo suited him – everything was just perfect.”
Alberto Sanna lost his whip in the home run aboard Dr Race (8/1) but still squeaked the Class 4 Shek Kip Mei Handicap (1000m) in a nodding finish. The in-form Italian edged the verdict by a nose from the Nash Rawiller-ridden Peace Combination (131lb).
“Nash said to me that I’d got it, but I really didn’t know!” Sanna said.
Jockey Karis Teetan and trainer Ricky Yiu struck with Encore Boy (4.3) in the seventh race, the Class 3 King’s Park Handicap (1200m). The last race, the Class 3 Tsim Sha Tsui Handicap (1650m), went to the Peter Ho-trained Don’t Miss (6.5) under Matthew Poon.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Saturday, April 21.