Hooded questions remain for Exultant in Hong kong Classic Mile

Exultant heads towards Sunday week’s (21 January) Hong Kong Classic Mile as one of the lead protagonists but with a query or two lingering over his hooded head.

Tony Cruz’s exciting bay joined fellow Hong Kong Classic Mile entrants Nothingilikemore, Good Standing, Ruthven and Singapore Sling in barrier trial action at Sha Tin this morning, Friday, 12 January.

Exultant’s switched-off 12 lengths last of 11 in the first batch, sporting a hood for the first time, left jockey Zac Purton pleased that there was no repeat of the over-racing that marked the early stages of the Irish import’s imposing last start win in Class 2, yet ruminating over the workings of his tricky partner.

“I don’t know if it was the hood going on or going over 2000 metres last start and then coming back to a 1200-metre dirt trial that was the reason for him being so laidback this morning,” Purton said.

“I think, until I ride him in a hood in a race on the grass, over a distance where he’s going to be able to travel, it’s hard to get a gauge on how effective that equipment was this morning.

“It was completely different to his race,” he continued. “But that run seems to have taken the edge off him. Coming back to a 1200-metre trial on the dirt he was always going to get run off his legs a little bit, and we put the hood on him today in the hope that he would be a little more relaxed. It certainly helped in that respect.”

Exultant was tapped for toe in the trial’s early stages and raced at the back of the field with Purton content to let the Group 1 Irish 2,000 Guineas (1600m) third roll home at leisure.

“They seemed to go a little bit quick for him but I thought he trialled well enough,” Purton said. “He’s a quirky horse; he has some strange characteristics so it might take us a little bit of time to work him out fully but I’m happy enough with the way he went this morning.”

Any concern the rider has about dropping back to a mile for the first leg of Hong Kong’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series is only slight.

“You’ve always got to be worried about that; it’s a big drop in distance and he’s going to be racing against some sharp horses. But I’m sure he’s going to run well and hopefully there’s going to be plenty of speed in the race so he can be the one getting over the top of them late.”

The John Size-trained Nothingilikemore caught the eye ahead of Exultant. Hong Kong’s highest-rated four-year-old quickened smartly under Keith Yeung to collar the talented five-year-old Pingwu Spark and pass the post first in a time of 1m 09.88s.

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