Zac Purton has delivered a resounding reminder his quest for a fifth Hong Kong jockeys’ championship is very much intact with a Happy Valley five-timer on Sunday as the Australian capitalised on Joao Moreira’s absence.

With fellow four-time champion Moreira starting a six-meeting ban, Purton put on a clinic to slash the Brazilian’s lead to 13 – 74-61 – as Purton’s fellow Australian Daniel Moor notched his first Hong Kong winner.

Injured in a race fall at Sha Tin on 12 December, Purton’s 11-win lead at the time over Moreira evaporated when he was sidelined for eight meetings and, entering today’s fixture, he faced an 18-win deficit. But, with a vintage display, the famously competitive hoop figured in the first three in all 10 races, also posting three seconds and two thirds.

“It’s nice to be riding a few winners again and hopefully things start to roll along a little bit more,” said Purton, who suffered multiple fractures in the accident. “I’ll just turn up, every meeting, every race and try and give my horses their chances and hopefully they can get it done for me.”

Addressing the title battle, Purton said: “We’ve got a long way to go and I’ve got to build myself back to where I was before, as well. I’ll just keep working at it.”

Purton was denied in the programme’s feature, the Class 2 Hip Wo Handicap, by an inspired ride from Harry Bentley, who triumphed on 82-1 chance Grateful Heart.

Giving Danny Shum a treble, Englishman Bentley worked his way through the field along the fence to claim Purton on Voyage Warrior in the shadows of the post.

Winner of last season’s HK$1 million DBS x Manulife Million Challenge for the most wins in Class 3 or above at Happy Valley between September and February, Grateful Heart has struggled since suffering a leg injury soon after lifting the series.

“I didn’t expect him to win,” Shum said. “He had four wins last season to win the Challenge, after that he had a suspensory problem and it took a long time for him to recover.”

As Purton and Bentley celebrated, their thoughts were with Luke Currie who lost winning rides on Grateful Heart and High Rise Soldier after being injured in a trial fall at Sha Tin on Friday (4 February).

Purton was the first beneficiary of Currie’s misfortune when Francis Lui’s High Rise Soldier claimed the first section of the Class 3 Hoi Yuen Handicap (1200m).

The Australian then produced a sublime ride on Tony Cruz’s Viva Popcorn to win the first section of the Class 4 Yue Man Handicap (1650m) in further evidence of growing confidence.

Dropping to the rail from barrier 11 before reaching the winning post for the first time, Purton waited until the back straight before making a long, sustained run to take the lead before reaching the home turn.

A Hong Kong International Sale graduate, all three of Viva Popcorn’s victories have come at the City Circuit over the 1650m trip.

Purton then unveiled a copybook ride on Lightning Storm in the Class 4 Tsun Yip Handicap (1000m), sitting just off the speed before angling clear for Danny Shum.

“It was a nice win. I waited for Zac to come back for this horse. The horse has improved in condition since his last run. I think he’s a nice horse and can win in Class 3,” Shum said.

Purton then combined with John Size aboard Toronado Phantom, producing the grey with perfect timing to clinch the second section of the Class 3 Hoi Yuen Handicap (1200m) before closing the day with victory on Frankie Lor’s Savvy Kingman in the Class 3 Mut Wah Handicap (1800m).

Francis Lui will send Golden Sixty to the Sha Tin trials on Tuesday (8 February) before making a decision whether to start the champion in either the G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) on 20 February or the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on the same day.

“I will trial him on Tuesday and I will discuss it with Vincent (Ho) but I would prefer to run him over 2000 (metres) – I think after the trial we’ll know,” Lui said.

Golden Sixty has not raced since defeat by Waikuku in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) at Sha Tin on 23 January ended a 16-run winning streak.

Lui completed a double on Sunday with the auspicious debut of Gallant Waking, who came from last to win the first section of the Class 4 Wai Yip Handicap (1200m) under Vincent Ho.

Trained in Sydney by Bjorn Baker and the winner of two Rosehill trials when named Caiola, Gallant Waking today defied market expectations to Lui’s delights.

“He surprised me a bit. He won two trials in Australia and when he came here, he didn’t show a lot in trackwork so I sent him to Conghua and his trial up there wasn’t that good,” Lui said. “I brought him back to Sha Tin and he trialled much better at Happy Valley (on 22 January).”

Daniel Moor slotted his first Hong Kong win when Shum’s Bingo Bingo overhauled favourite Awesome Treasure to land the second section of the Class 4 Wai Yip Handicap (1200m).

“He was my best ride today. We had a beautiful run in transit and there was good speed. We were able to stalk Zac (Awesome Treasure) at every point we could and we probably had an easier run,” Moor said.

“It hasn’t been all easy, but I feel it’s an opportunity. Not everyone gets a licence to ride in Hong Kong and for me to go through small, minor hurdles and inconveniences to ride here is well and truly and worth it.

“It’s obviously very difficult to secure good rides when we’ve got the star riders riding as well as they are. Hopefully, from today, we can roll on. I’m riding quite light and I’m picking it up quickly, so hopefully onwards and upwards.”

Size boasts a four win leader over Frankie Lor now – 47-43 – which was enhanced when Karis Teetan registered a double aboard Zone D in the Class 3 Hung To Handicap (1650m), sealing a treble for the day.

Size opened his account with Dr Winning in the second section of the Class 4 Yue Man Handicap (1650m) in tandem with Teetan.

“He had the perfect trip and once he saw daylight, he sprinted really well and won with something in hand,” Teetan said. “This horse has been racing well and I have to thank Mr Size for giving me opportunities with Joao out suspended.”

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday.

 

courtesy of www.thoroughbrednews.com.au