Zac Purton battled through a mild dose of flu to snare two victories at Happy Valley tonight, Wednesday, 6 June, and closed to within a single win of Champion Jockey Joao Moreira in the Hong Kong title race.
“I’ve got the flu but I’ll take the two winners to make me feel better. I’m getting there, slowly,” he said.
Moreira was absent from the fray, serving the first part of a two-meeting suspension, and Purton struck early in his attempt to make hay. The Australian ace took the second contest, the Class 3 Elgin Handicap (2200m), atop the 2016 Italian Derby winner Super Chic, a comfortable two and a half-length victor as 1.5 favourite.
“I had a lovely run the whole way, he was the best stayer in the field and once he got the run, he was going to be hard to beat,” he said.
Purton had no joy in the next three contests but Top Score (133lb) was on the mark for the former champion in the night’s trophy event, the Class 4 Sports Club Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m).
“I had a nice run in the race,” he said, “they just steadied up coming down The Rock and he’s a horse that would probably prefer to get his momentum going a little bit more by then, but when I turned into the straight, I could tell the horses in front were all tired. It was just a matter of getting through. I thought he’d get the job done.”
Francis Lui’s charge boxed to a half-length success over Formula Galore (116lb), with Oriental Elite (117llb) a short-head further back in third.
“He looks to have found the key to success – he likes to race at Happy Valley. Since he switched to the city track two starts back he has shown plenty of improvement,” Lui said of the 1.8 favourite.
Top Score now has two wins and a second from his three starts at the course and distance.
“Actually, he won comfortably tonight – once he obtained a clear run he came home strongly. He is now physically very sound and fit so I might run him again at Happy Valley before the end of the season,” Lui added.
Ben So showed that he is fully healed from the broken arm that sidelined him for almost a year, driving Beaut Beaut to a two-length triumph in the Class 4 On Lan Handicap.
“I’m really pleased; I’ve had to do a lot of gym work,” said So, who was scoring at only his third meeting back.
“I had to do three months of physio and I couldn’t even lift my arm up at first, so I’ve had to get the good movement back and build up the strength – it’s feeling good now.”
Beaut Beaut’s win completed a double for trainer Peter Ho, who was on the mark in the Class 5 opener with the Alberto Sanna-ridden Association Fans.
Vincent Ho was also in double form. The rider displayed astuteness to score on Multigogo in the fifth and Healthy Luck in race seven.
The former, trained by Tony Cruz, took the Class 4 Shelley Handicap (1650m) by a length and a half, while the latter, trained by Manfred Man, drew clear to snare the Class 3 Staunton Handicap at odds of 3.8.
Olivier Doleuze kicked away from the field to land the Class 5 Lyndhurst Handicap (1200m) on 25/1 shot Fantastic Fabio. Trainer Dennis Yip said he will likely give his charge a chance to follow-up in Class 4 company before the season is over.
Victor Wong’s 10lb claim was enough to help Pretty Bauhinia land a third win this year for trainer Me Tsui. The five-year-old took the finale, the Class 3 Wyndham Handicap in a scrambling finish at odds of 15/1.
Hong Kong racing will continue with an 11-race Members’ Day card at Sha Tin on Sunday, 10 June.