Three cheers for perfect Purton
Zac Purton continued his phenomenal recent form, riding the tricky 'C+3' course to perfection at Happy Valley last night, grabbing a treble and consolidating second spot in the Jockeys' Championship.
Purton now has 32 wins this season, 11 in the seven meetings so far this month, and while Douglas Whyte (57 wins) seems well on his way to a 12th successive crown, Purton could challenge for Brett Prebble's perennial spot as second-placegetter, with his injured countryman stalled on 27.
'Before the barrier draws I thought I could ride four winners, but the draws ended that idea,' Purton said.
'So I was particularly pleased to get three.'
Purton rode picture-perfect Valley efforts on all three winners, patiently waiting for inside runs as fields fanned wide on the narrow track. Prince Of Sunshine box-seated, he found the rails from a wide gate on Mochi and used an ideal draw on upset winner Perfect Cheers in the last.
Peter Ho Leung was talking up Purton's skill at getting Mochi back and relaxed, before he nosed out Happy Score.
'To find the fence from there was key,' he said. 'He is a tough horse and the more I race him the better he gets.'
Trainer Caspar Fownes was pumped after Perfect Cheers saluted at $160, the application of blinkers getting the expected response after they had been worn in both of his Australian wins.
'He has been frustrating and a bit disappointing in his runs here,' Fownes said. 'But he has had some internal issues with mucus, but that stuff has broken down and now he is good.'
After Super Plus (Keith Yeung Ming-lun) captured the night's feature and the lead in the 1010 Million Challenge, trainer Peter Ng Bik-kuen said he will consider backing the sprinter up to seal victory at the series finale next week.
Ng had a double to take his season tally to 20 and a strong win in the Rotary Centenary Challenge Cup catapulted Super Plus from fourth to first in the 1010 Challenge, which is decided on races held at Happy Valley.
'We weren't thinking about that series because this is a cup race, and I wanted the cup more than anything else,' Ng said.
'Let's see how he pulls up in the morning and then we'll consider an entry for next week.'
Victories are worth 15 points in the HK$650,000 to the winner series and Super Plus moved to a four point lead over Mr Bond and, depending on his re-handicap, is likely to line up in a 85-60 over 1,200m in six days.
In the opening event of the night, Ng's Mr Speedy was able to walk away with a Class Five (2,200m), when jockey Mark du Plesssis got away with murder in front, putting a string of slow sectionals together down the back when unchallenged and then sprinting away.
The night's shortest-priced favourite did the right thing by punters, Mi Savvy (Olivier Doleuze) scoring a comfortable Class Four win at his second start for Richard Gibson.
The three-year-old had been impressive on debut and only needed to run up to that form to win, but seemed improved by the first-up effort as he box-seated from gate one and burst away for a comfortable 2-1/4 length win.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai had a double, scoring with a couple of imports, Impeccable and China Power, who had recently dropped in grade, but are ready to bounce back up, according to the trainer.
'Impeccable is a tough little horse and will keep progressing,' he said. 'China Power's form in England was very consistent, with the blinkers on he handled the track very well.'
In other news, Neil Callan, who last night served the first half of a two meeting suspension and was due to finish his current tenure next week, has had his licence extended for the fixtures up to and including Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby day on March 18.