Zac Purton reached 99 wins for the season when Dream Come True landed the Class 3 Hong Kong Exchanges Challenge Cup Handicap (1000m) at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 10 April).
That win came at the evening’s mid-point but the champion jockey was unable to add to his tally in the remaining four contests. The century will wait for another day – this Sunday, most likely.
Purton has drawn only four blank days in the last 30 race meetings going back to 1 January, and the latest of those was the five-race Conghua fixture on 23 March.
Dream Come True was tasked with making all from gate two in the dash. Purton used the four-year-old’s early speed to snare pole position and drove for home off the turn.
“That was his race to win if he put it together and he did. He did his job tonight,” Purton said of the even-money favourite.
The 72-rated chestnut held the late run of Fairy Twins by a half-length to earn a first Hong Kong success at start seven. His rider believes he should cope with the impending rating rise but only if he learns from the experience.
“I think he can cope,” he said. “He didn’t change his legs tonight – it’s very hard to win races when you’re not doing that. He has enough ability to offset that to a certain degree on the rating he was on here but as he goes up he’s going to need to change legs if he’s to be competitive.”
The All Too Hard gelding’s success was trainer Benno Yung’s 20th of the campaign.
Joao Moreira is in the unusual position of being third in the premiership, 45 wins off the top spot. That is all to do with circumstance and bears no relation to the three-time Hong Kong champion’s desire.
The Brazilian snared a double that included the evening’s other trophy race, the Class 4 Beijing Clubhouse Anniversary Cup Handicap (1200m). That score came aboard the Tony Cruz-trained Wah May Princess, registering a third win from nine outings this campaign.
“It looks like he can go on from this,” Moreira said of the 2.8 favourite. “It felt like there was more in him. He’s got gate speed, he can always put himself up there – even if he goes up in class, I believe he will be capable to jump and just give himself the best chance because he’s up there on the speed.
“When we turned for home and I put him under pressure, he gave me such nice acceleration and I knew from then on I wasn’t going to get beaten.”
True Grit, meanwhile, lived right up to his name for Moreira in the Class 4 Chaoyangmen Handicap (1650m). The John Size-trained four-year-old had posted two third-place finishes leading into tonight – signaling that he was on the right curve – and made a career breakthrough at start four.
But the Wanted gelding had to dig deep for Size’s stable jockey in a stretching, ducking duel with the Vincent Ho-ridden Alpha Hedge. True Grit nicked it by a slim, diminshing nose.
“I felt like he won the race,” Moreira said of the 2.5 favourite. “It was a tough win. At the 600 metres you would doubt that he was going to win but it was a fight and when he was put under pressure he gave his heart – he didn’t give up.
“It’s always good to click winners here and there, it keeps the confidence up. We’re here to try our best and things are going well.”
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) April 10, 2019
Umberto Rispoli enjoyed a brace thanks to two determined rides on Ruletheroost and Big Bang Bong.
The former took the Class 4 Donzhimen Handicap (1800m) in a driving three-way finish, which the bay edged by a neck. The Frankie Lor-trained four-year-old displayed some quirks post-race veering sharply to the outside rail as he cantered back, and then stamping and pawing his off-hind while twirling his tail as he was unsaddled.
Rispoli revealed that the $3.70 favourite with online bookmaker Neds was not straightforward in the race either.
“He’s a bit tricky!” he said. “I was thinking he’d win by a length but when we got a length and a half clear he just saved himself, he was waiting for horses. Once he saw Management Star (second) come back on the inside, he felt the horse coming and he fought back again. He saves himself.”
The Italian, who has hit form in recent weeks, took the last, the Class 3 Wangfujing Handicap (1650m) in tandem with the Jimmy Ting-trained Big Bang Bong, the card’s longest-priced winner at odds of 9.6.
The Lor stable bagged a brace too when Victor Wong partnered Speed Vision to success in the Class 3 Dongcheng District Handicap (1200m).
Peter Ho was not to be out-done – his stable sealed a brace in his absence. The handler was out of town, looking for the next generation at this week’s Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale in Sydney, but that didn’t stop Great Son and Precious Sweetie winning the night’s first two races. Matthew Poon was aboard the former, while Ben So secured his third win of the season atop the latter.