Zac Purton was back in top form with a winning treble at Happy Valley last night to make a one-act affair of the Jockey Challenge but he was happy they weren't paying on margins.
'All three of them, I thought they were going to win easily and it ended up being a struggle,' said Purton after landing the opener with Industrial Legend by a short head, the fourth with Wind Damper by a nose and the featured Victoria Racing Club Trophy on Charity Spirit by a neck.
Charity Spirit only recently joined Danny Shum Chap-shing's yard and Purton said the soft draw paved the way to winning last night.
'I rode him at work the other day and he worked upside down and just went too fast, so it was no guide, but we got the lovely sit behind nice speed tonight and couldn't have had a better race plan,' Purton said. 'Around the home turn, I thought he would win pretty easily but he was under pressure late in the race. His action changed and he was paddling. I doubt he wants any further than the 1,000m and he might not be easy to place but he got the job done.'
So, too, did Wind Damper, who had Purton aboard when he won his debut run in December 2009. The Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained gelding had only racked up a few placings since, but Purton said he had gone to the races with some real confidence.
'I worked him on Thursday and said to Ricky it was the best he's felt in over a year, then he drew in as well,' Purton said. 'We know he has a breathing problem but the good even speed helped him with that.'
Purton had handled just a few runners for Dennis Yip Chor-hong before this season but Industrial Legend became his fifth winner from 19 rides since the pair began combining more often.
'It took me five years to get a ride from Dennis but things are going really well,' he said. 'Industrial Legend had put some consistent runs together so I wasn't surprised to see him win. He was also going to win by further when we made our move. He'll go up to Class Four now but he stays well and could get away with one in that grade.'
Yip won a double when his apprentice, Alvin Ng Ka-chun, scored on Ottimo two races later, but Ng was in trouble with the stewards over his ride in the fourth on Benefactor and collected his fifth careless riding charge of the season.
With a three-day ban already set to commence on Monday, Ng's four-day penalty for last night's offence will start on the end of that, keeping him sidelined for almost all the remainder of February.
The crown has been looking wobbly this season on regular King Of The Valley, Caspar Fownes, but the yard was back last night with a double as Ride On The Fire (Tim Clark) and Snitzel Kid (Neil Callan) saluted.
Clark had been booked for Hannibal Barca, but when that horse was scratched, he called Fownes for the first reserve, Ride On The Fire.
'Full credit to Tim, he had the good draw in gate one and lost his ride so he rang and asked to get on mine,' Fownes said. 'We've been trying a few things to get the horse to relax lately but from the good gate, he actually seemed to take to it.'
Jockey Club officials were left ruing the late scratching with a skin rash of Noble De Best, one of the favourites for the fifth race.'We were a skin infection off a billion-dollar night,' said chief executive Winfried Engelecht-Bresges after pari-mutuel turnover reached more than $988 million and Jockey Challenge punters added another $8 million.