The championship prospects of Zac Purton were aided by a treble that took him to 100 wins for the term, just one behind premiership leader Joao Moreira who endured a blank evening at Happy Valley on Wednesday (15 April) night.
“The target at the start of the season is always 100 and I think if you ride that amount of winners you’ve had a very good season,” Purton said. “It’s not easy to do – only three jockeys in history have done it in Hong Kong, so to get there again is satisfying because I haven’t had one stable I ride for fly this season, they’ve all sort of gone ok but not great and it’s made things a little bit hard.”
Purton’s fifth Hong Kong century came in a thrilling finale – the Class 2 Cedar Handicap (1800m) – that pitted the two great rivals in an all-out tussle through the final 500m. The champion jockey aboard Dances With Dragon slip-streamed Moreira’s back-stretch advance on Enrichment and enjoyed a slingshot run to the lead at the top of the home straight, only for the Brazilian’s mount to rally and press him all the way to the line.
“I just got a lovely drag into the race on his back,” Purton said. “They slowed the pace right off, we made the move at the right time and we had a good battle up the straight. It was good to get one over him again.”
Earlier, Island Shine and Purton took section two of the Class 3 Cypress Handicap (1200m). The win moved Ricky Yiu to 48 wins – one ahead of Francis Lui at the top of the trainers’ premiership.
Purton kicked off his three-timer in section one of the Class 4 Larch Handicap (1200m). Compassion Sprit had the Australian aboard for the first time at his fourth start and the Manfred Man-trained three-year-old carried the champion jockey to an easy success. The 1.8 favourite broke his maiden by three quarters of a length under hands and heels.
Antoine Hamelin bagged a double at his first Hong Kong race day last Sunday and followed up with his first Happy Valley victory tonight. The Frenchman showed determined force in driving the Peter Ho-trained Lasting Friendship to a neck success in race three, the Class 4 Spruce Handicap (1650m).
Dylan Mo claimed his seventh win of the campaign aboard the Me Tsui-trained Sky Treasure in section three of the Class 4 Larch Handicap (1200m).
Apprentice Victor Wong took section one of the Cypress Handicap (1200m) on the Frankie Lor-trained Beauty Spark.