Brisbane trip comes in handy for Purton
There was no jockey with a more strenuous preparation for the waterlogged meeting than Zac Purton so it should have come as no surprise when he landed a double, including the Group Three Sha Tin Vase (1,200m) on Gallant Lion.
Purton went to an equally waterlogged Brisbane on Saturday for two feature race rides, with his flight scheduled to arrive several hours before his commitments, but his plane was 10 minutes from landing when it was turned away due to high winds.
'We didn't have fuel to circle so we ended up landing at Townsville. When they refuelled, they put too much fuel on for the flight back to Brisbane and we had more delays - by the time I arrived at the racecourse, the horses were already parading,' Purton said.
Purton was able to make the trip worthwhile with a Group Three winner on the second of his mounts, but also got a head start on yesterday's rivals by getting a refresher course riding a heavy surface and that came in handy on Gallant Lion.
The Caspar Fownes-trained six-year-old has been brave in defeat all season but finally snatched the big event he has been promising when a hot pace played into the hands of the back runners in the Vase. The leading few broke clear mid-race, headed by dirt-wonder Lucky Quality, but they came back quickly once heads were turned for home.
'They were always going to run along in the race but the conditions were tough if you were back in the field,' Purton said. 'I pulled my first set of goggles down at the 700m and my second set at the 250m - and I was only wearing two. I copped a clod of mud in the face after that and had a bit of trouble seeing in the last bit of the race but I was sure I'd won. I just had to wipe some of the mud out of my eyes to look at the board and make sure.'
For Gallant Lion, it was just win number three from 36 starts, but he has been a model of consistency, finishing in the first four another 17 times.
'He deserved that,' said Fownes. 'He never runs a bad race, he just needs it all to go the right way because he gets back in the field. There's nothing wrong with his attitude.'
Purton's trip to Brisbane had made him a last-start winner on the wet when he took the Manfred Man- Ka-leung-trained Master Rio out for the opener, and the three-year-old put a lie to his debut form when well backed to beat Dr Possible.
'I was really disappointed with his first start - I felt he was a lot better than that,' said Purton.
'With hindsight, there had been a little hiccup in his preparation and maybe he was a bit burly for the first run, but with that under his belt he was the horse I thought he was today. He gets a bit toey at the moment and has to learn to relax, but it's only early with him and there is more to come with Master Rio.'
Purton started the day on 29 wins - the same tally he managed last season - but the pair took him into the 30s with another 10 meetings still to run.
Zac Purton's good double yesterday took him to sixth in the jockeys' table on (points): 31