Zac Purton’s assault on Joao Moreira’s jockeys’ championship lead continued apace at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (9 February) when the Australian posted a quartet to slash his arch-rival’s buffer to single-figures.
With nine winners from 18 rides at the past two meetings, Purton’s bombardment has seen his deficit to Moreira tumble from 18 to nine (74-65) – with the Brazilian still sidelined for the next four meetings.
“Hopefully there’s a few more (wins) to come,” Purton said teaming with Francis Lui (twice), Benno Yung and Manfred Man to take riding honors, while Ricky Yiu matched Lui’s effort to slot a double.
Purton’s form surge continued as Harry Bentley clinched the evening’s feature – the Class 3 Victoria Park Handicap (1650m) – aboard Caspar Fownes-trained Invincible Missile with a finely-judged ride.
The Englishman boosted his season’s haul to 14 wins after weaving his way through the field before lifting the son of Smart Missile to victory in the programme finale.
“He’s had a couple of weeks’ break and I think that’s really freshened him up and when I rode him last time he felt like a fresh horse and he only had to repeat that performance from last race to be competitive,” Bentley said.
“I’m really chuffed with how things are going. I just want to keep a solid momentum and if I can bang in a winner every week, I’d be very happy.”
Francis Lui will continue to target five-furlong contests at the City Circuit with Stoltz, comfortable winner of the Class 3 Hong Kong Park Handicap (1000m) under Purton.
“He goes to up to Class 2 now, so I will have a look at the programme. I prefer to keep him here at Happy Valley first but it will depend on the programme,” Lui said of the course 1000m record-holder.
“Zac says he has improved a little bit. He’s getting more mature.”
Formerly trained by Annabel Neasham in Sydney, Stoltz won three of nine starts in Australia before export to Hong Kong.
Purton combined with Benno Yung’s Dragon Pride to win the Class 5 Kowloon Tsai Park Handicap (1650m), continuing a remarkable streak for the four-time champion jockey.
The Australian then reunited with Lui to snare the Class 3 Kowloon Park Handicap (1200m) with a rail-hugging ride on Party Warrior.
“He’s (Zac Purton) a champion, he’s a good help for me,” Lui said. “It also helps to have a good draw (barrier one) with this horse. It’s good to win.”
Manfred Man’s Lucky Sweynesse provided Purton’s fourth winner of the night, sweeping strongly along the rail once into the clear to land the first section of the Class 4 Penfold Park Handicap (1200m).
“He was a little bit slow to step but the good barrier (gate four) helped him and he was able to muster through and get a good spot and they really backed the speed off coming down ‘The Rock’ (750m mark), so it got messy for a little bit but once he got clear he really accelerated well,” Purton said.
Ricky Yiu predicts Off The Reel will continue to flourish over longer trips after the Dundeel gelding’s comprehensive victory in the Class 4 Morse Park Handicap (1800m) under Derek Leung.
“He’s a slow-maturing stayer and I think he’ll be better over even further,” Yiu said after the four-year-old’s third win in four starts. “I think 2000 metres won’t be a problem.”
Yiu snaffled a race-to-race double when Loriz defied the favourite Joyful Genius to land the third section of the Class 4 Penfold Park Handicap (1200m) for a delighted Antoine Hamelin.
“I love this horse. He’s very fast at the start, which is very important, and now he keeps fighting. He hit the line today very well and I’m very happy with him,” the Frenchman said after logging his eighth win for the term.
“I’m just happy to win. If you get a good ride in your hand, you can do something good.”
Danny Shum attributed Regency Star’s tigerish effort to lead virtually of the way to win the second section of the Class 4 Penfold Park Handicap (1200m) for Alexis Badel to the application of cheek pieces.
“He’s still not mature and the cheek pieces really helped tonight,” Shum said. “I think he can continue to improve when he matures.”
Ruan Maia continued his solid season with victory aboard Tony Millard-trained Fortune Patrol in the Class 5 Shan Kwong Road Park Handicap (2200m) despite being slowly away.
“Mr Millard told me to stay close to the pace but he jumped too slow and I had to encourage him and he improved a lot and he’s a good stayer. He won well in the end, so I’m very pleased,” the Brazilian said.
An eight-year-old, Fortune Patrol marked his 50th start with a third victory in Hong Kong, providing Maia with his 12th triumph of the campaign.
“He’s been a nice horse,” Millard said. “He does his job each season.”