Zac Purton drew rare praise from trainer John Moore when he added a brilliant ride from a wide gate on Military Attack yesterday to a brilliant ride from an inside gate in the Gold Cup last time, and the result was identical in the Group Three Premier Plate (1,800m).
Purton had surprised Moore in the Gold Cup when he had Military Attack quickly into the box seat early, which paved the way to his runaway Group One success, and another gem from Purton had the trainer evoking the name of his late, great father, perhaps Australia's greatest-ever jockey.
"Zac did a George Moore there - he took the bull by the horns, set his own speed and made them do things his way," Moore said after Military Attack had prevailed in the sprint from the home turn to hold off his chasers by a half-a-length. "Given that sort of a run in front, Military Attack kicked like the Group One horse we know he is and if he takes this sort of form to the QE II Cup, then he is going to run well."
Purton admitted later going to the lead from barrier 13 with 133 pounds in the saddle had not been his intention, but he had gone to the gates with more than one option.
"I was in two minds how to ride him. It always looked difficult from the outside gate with a big weight and Plan B was the softer option to go back and get cover," Purton said.
"But I felt the track had played in the favour of horses near the speed all day and there didn't look like much pace in this race to begin with, so I thought I would try my luck early, try to get in with some cover and not giving too much start. That didn't work out, so I bit the bullet and went all the way and crossed to lead and controlled the pace."
From that point, Military Attack rolled along comfortably despite the unfamiliar role in front and Purton was only concerned approaching the turn for home.
"I had Let Me Handle It outside me, eyeballing me from the 1,000m, but that was OK until he tried to get up beside me at the 700m and wanted to start making a race of it under his light weight," Purton said. "I was still trying to cuddle my horse knowing he had the weight but it just made him switch on and race a bit earlier than was ideal. There was a good bit of merit in the win."
But that won't make any difference to Purton's plans for the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup on April 28, where he leaves his unbeaten record on Military Attack on the sidelines to reunite with Ambitious Dragon. "I've asked James McDonald to come and ride Military Attack in the QE II Cup," Moore said. "But now that Ambitious Dragon isn't running in the Champions Mile, I've asked Zac to ride Xtension in that race."
Moore made it a quick late double 30 minutes later when Sea Diamond (Weichong Marwing) kept his excellent record intact, despite a tough wide run throughout.
"I've always had a lot of time for this horse - he's a delight to train," Moore said. "He wasn't given any favours by the horses inside him, saw daylight the whole way today and still got to line very strongly."
It was Sea Diamond's fifth win from 10 starts, with all but one of the victories coming over the Sha Tin 1,400m course.