Day belongs to fired-up Purton
He may not have a leading stable at his back, but Australian jockey Zac Purton surged into equal second on the championship ladder with a three-timer yesterday at Sha Tin that showcased his often-underrated talents.
'That was just a brilliant ride,' said trainer Paul O'Sullivan after New Vision overcame a big weight and an outside draw to scramble home in the final race and complete a Purton-ridden double for the New Zea lander.
Leading riders Douglas Whyte and Brett Prebble were two of a number of jockeys on the suspended list, but picking up their loose rides wasn't where Purton made the day his own, as his treble came courtesy of two of his mainstays, O'Sullivan and Ricky Yiu Poon-fai.
Yiu-trained Honour List took the Class Five opener at his first time in the cellar grade, before Purton added improving Cai Bao In in the third, then New Vision by just enough to swear by.
'It helps being on horses that are going as well as Ricky and Paul's this season and I think that last winner's effort had a bit more merit than people will probably give New Vision credit for,' Purton said. 'It was always going to be hard from gate 13, but I managed to work my way in and he dropped the bit really nicely. But about the 600m, Gift Is Gift came around me and I had to come outside a bit to make sure I would have room to go when I wanted and not get boxed in, and that just fired New Vision up a touch. With the big weight, he bottomed out once he got the lead at the 150m and he had to show a real fighting heart to hold them off the last bit.'
O'Sullivan said it was hard to fault New Vision's record of 14 starts for five wins and six placings, and the gelding would have no option but to tackle the big boys in Class One from now on.
'There's a race for him the second week of February and I'd love to let him know that he won't have to race till then and can put his feet up, because he's given us everything today - he had a bit of a gut buster under 133 pounds because he tries so hard,' he said.
With major championship rivals Whyte, Prebble, Darren Beadman and Matthew Chadwick supported by the big four training yards, Purton has managed to punch above his opportunities and finish in the first four on the ladder for the past three seasons and looks headed for a similar finish again this term, with 20 wins already under his belt.
O'Sullivan-trained Cai Bao In had looked a work in progress at two prior starts but his victory was not unexpected, with the solid support for the four-year-old International Sale griffin with an old Sha Tin connection.
'His mother, Dazzling Park, was a Group winning mare who came here and ran in the Hong Kong Cup behind Jim And Tonic one year and she ran second in the Irish Champion Stakes to Daylami and her main claim to fame is she's a half-sister to the champion horse of a couple of years ago, New Approach. So there's a bit of a pedigree there to say Cai Bao In can keep improving,' O'Sullivan said.
'Jeff Lloyd rode him last time and said he gave him a great feel for 50 metres before he ran out of steam, and he was fitter today. He started off a very backward sort of horse but the owner said to take my time with him, and now he's getting the benefits of that.'
Purton said his job was made easier when favourite Right Timing was trying to get outside Full Value as the latter was laying out in the straight and that opened up a gap through the middle for him.
'He's still a green horse - he doesn't begin that well and he doesn't travel that well so he doesn't give you a lot of help at this stage,' he said. 'But when they opened up like that and he got plenty of room, he accelerated well and he'll definitely get more ground.'
The number of wins Zac Purton, who is having another fine season, has racked up