Zac Purton is looking to up the ante in his push for a fifth jockeys’ championship tonight (Wednesday, 16 February) at Happy Valley, taking yet another imposing book of rides as he hopes to build on his unmatched 35 wins at the city circuit this term.
Sitting eight wins adrift of Joao Moreira who leads the title race 74 to 66, Purton has banged in 13 wins from the last five meetings at Happy Valley – a dazzling run of form that will prove pivotal at the pointy end of the season as Hong Kong’s “big two” get set to pull further clear and vie for the championship.
“Hopefully, I can put myself in the position to be competitive, it’ll come down to the support either of us get, the stables we ride for, how they’re going and how they push us along, so we’ll see what happens,” Purton said.
Prior to his engagements tonight, Purton hopped aboard the gifted California Spangle – who is preparing to contest the HKD$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on Sunday, 27 February after stepping up from 1200m to 1600m to finish second behind Romantic Warrior in the HKD$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m).
“He did everything right, he pulled up well and hopefully he can draw a little bit kinder this time to give himself a chance again,” Purton said of the exciting talent who last-start stepped away from gate 13.
Trained by Tony Cruz, California Spangle led from the get-go in this Tuesday morning’s (15 February) barrier trial under Purton on his way to a time of 1m 09.96s over 1200m on the dirt at Sha Tin.
“The distance is the same question he faced going into the Classic Mile, it was a really big effort to go straight from 1200 to 1600 metres, and to do so from the outside gate to only be run down late.
“But the mile is once again a different beast to 1800 metres and it will be a different beast again as he gets to 2000, but step-by-step we’ll see where we are at – it was a decent gap to the third horse the other day, so I feel like he’s in with a chance,” Purton outlined.
A quartet of Class 3 contests headline the midweek fixture this week – the first is the Fountain Palm Handicap (2200m) where Purton hops aboard Exceptional Nice.
“It’s a small field, he can run the distance and he’s in good form, so if it’s an evenly run race he’ll get his chance but he’s had his chance many times and he seems to keep coming up short, but sooner or later hopefully he has his day,” Purton said.
Purton also hops aboard Raging Blaze, Gracylove, The Runner, Birdsville, Loyal Baby, Bulletproof, Stock Legend and Soulmate.
Nearly Fine for Chan at the Valley
Alfred Chan is expecting his five-pound claim to play a vital role in whether Nearly Fine is a factor in tonight’s (Wednesday, 16 February) first section of the Class 4 Spruce Handicap (1650m) at Happy Valley.
“Last time he dropped back to Class 4 with Blake Shinn aboard who gave him every chance, but he carried a big weight, although he did run home very well – but hopefully my claim, five pounds off tomorrow, is a big favour,” Chan said.
A steely grey son of Exosphere, Nearly Fine has hit the ground running in Hong Kong – twice narrowly missing over the course and distance – once with Chan in the plate four runs ago.
“He was still a little bit green when I rode him under race conditions recently and also I didn’t give him the best ride that day, he was beaten by a short margin because he kept shifting, but if I can do better on him then I think he will get a chance tomorrow,” Chan said.
Chan has collected 10 wins so far this season, already bettering last term’s haul as we move into the second half of the 2021/22 campaign.
“I can’t ask for much more to be honest, last year, I had seven wins throughout the whole season but at the halfway mark of this season I already have 10, so it can’t be better,” Chan said.
Teetan teams with Gallant Crown, rides Sky Darci this weekend
No jockey boasts more wins aboard Gallant Crown than Karis Teetan and this Wednesday (16 February) the Mauritian gets back in the plate aboard the five-year-old for the first time since October, 2021 in the Class 3 Cypress Handicap (1650m) at Happy Valley.
“It’s nice to get back on him, he’s been running well this whole season and he goes to the races with a nice chance,” Teetan said.
The Tony Millard-trainee is a four-time winner in Hong Kong – each time over tonight’s course and distance.
Teetan boasts a full book of engagements at the midweek fixture, while this Sunday (20 February) he is set to partner Sky Darci in the Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) – his second try at the distance after prevailing in last season’s BMW Hong Kong Derby.
“I trialled him last week, he trialled pretty good but he’s actually a very laidback horse – he’s not a horse that flies out of the gates. In the trial he just hopped out and he followed them through but I actually did like the way he responded in the straight, he’s a horse that knows when it’s time for business, so I was happy with his trial,” Teetan said.
The 31-year-old also renews a relationship with Californiadeepshot in the Group 1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) – the weekend fixture’s other top-level contest.