Zac Purton masterminded and executed an imperious win in the John Peel Handicap (Section 1) – albeit in modest Class 4 – that saw the massed ranks of the HKJC Racing Club descend upon the Happy Valley parade ring for a post-race victory snap with their latest pride, the 48-rated Young Empire.
The former champion jockey bounced his mount to the lead from gate nine and was never headed in the 1200m contest. Chris So’s charge maintained solid momentum throughout to score by two and a quarter lengths in a time of 1m 09.86s, and the trainer was quick to praise his rider.
“Before the race, I spoke to Zac and I told him that, because of the draw, I wanted him to sit midfield, but he said he wanted to go forward so I respected his view and listened to him. Today, you can see, the front-runners are hard to peg back, so he was right. He’s the jockey, so I let him do the job,” So said.
Purton wore a broad grin after the Royal Applause four-year-old, an 8.2 chance, had broken his Hong Kong maiden at start 13.
“He was quick from the gate and when he got to the front I was travelling really nicely, so I didn’t need to back the pace off too much, I just kept him happy in his rhythm. He gave me a nice kick at the top of the straight and it’s a good result for the Racing Club!” the Australian said.
A two-time winner in the UK from four starts, which included a smart sixth in the G2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, Young Empire has taken time to find his feet in Hong Kong.
“The horse is from England and when he came he was only two years old, he had a rating above 70, which was high, and we’ve spent a lot of time on him to teach him and help him learn about racing here,” So said. “I think if he keeps improving we might get another win or two from him. Happy Valley seems to suit.
“It’s good for the Racing Club, they’re an enthusiastic bunch,” added the handler, who scored a brace on the night thanks to a canny ride from Brett Prebble aboard Mr Kool in the Class 5 opener.
Jockey Karis Teetan landed a second double in four days. The Mauritian fired the Almond Lee-trained Sum Win Dragon to a three and a half-length success in race four, the Class 4 Jardine’s Lookout Handicap (1650m); then cut things a lot finer in race seven, the Class 3 Jardine Handicap (1650m), in which he made the running on the Francis Lui-trained High Volatility and held on by a short-head from Jade Fortune.
“I knew that the pace I went, if they were trying to chase me, they would find it difficult to make up ground,” Teetan said after High Volatility’s win at odds of 8.9.
“My horse didn’t stop, he kept running and he gave me a kick,” he continued. “I could feel them coming but if something had come to him earlier it would have helped him. With the light weight and the way the track was running, I could just let him run. He’s been working well and, with the draw (gate 1), put it all together and it worked out perfectly.”
John Size and Olivier Doleuze teamed to win race two with the front-running Giddy Giddy. Vincent Ho sat handily atop the Caspar Fownes-trained Jumbo Happiness before kicking to victory in race five, while in the finale, the Class 3 East Point Handicap (1200m), Umberto Rispoli had Trump sitting close before driving to a three-quarter-length win for trainer Gary Ng.