Zac Purton stretches lead on Douglas Whyte with narrow-margin double
Australian stretches his lead over Whyte as he seals a double by the narrowest of margins
If Zac Purton can end the 12-season dominance of Douglas Whyte, it could come down to a matter of inches - like the slender margin by which Victor Delight edged out Wrath Of Fire last night at Happy Valley.
Purton and Whyte had a win each from the Dennis Yip Chor-hung yard earlier in the evening, but Victor Delight's narrow win in race seven gave the Australian a double and stretched his Jockeys' Championship lead to three, 48 to 45.
"It was a case of heads-up, heads-down, but I knew my horse had a long head - that would work in my favour," Purton said, after hanging on from compatriot Tye Angland on the runner-up.
Trainer Caspar Fownes believes he may have unearthed a top-class stayer in Victor Delight, who has won three times and finished second twice in his last five starts.
"He might end up being a nice Queen Mother Memorial Cup horse," Fownes said. "We gave him a little break and it made a difference, as he is only a lightly framed horse."
Yip had earmarked race three last night for Perfect Moment more than a month ago, but a record of 11 runs without so much as a top-four finish meant it took some arm-twisting for Purton to take the ride.
"He gave me a great push for this horse a few weeks ago, saying that he was getting him ready for this race but I wasn't convinced - I didn't see what he was seeing," Purton said, whose cause was certainly helped by barrier two and racing handy on a slow tempo, the time nearly two seconds slower than standard.
Whyte's winner for Yip, One Of A Kind, also got his share of luck in race five, a slow speed and a key trail helping him overcome being stuck wide.
"We wouldn't have won had Very Well not given us a pull into the race," Yip said.
Terry Wong Chi-wai's horror season went from bad to worse when he was slammed by stewards for a careless riding incident in the race, the struggling jockey given five meetings on top of a yet-to-be-served three-meeting ban. Wong allowed his mount Viva Dolphin to shift ground passing the 250m and take the running of Optimization Star, who nearly fell, his jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun lucky to stay in the saddle.
Both trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai and jockey Olivier Doleuze hope O'Reilly Magic's come-from-behind win in race two was a swansong, advising owners to retire the eight-year-old. "That's a nice way for him to go out," said Doleuze after what he called a "lucky win", the fifth of the horse's career. Chang added: "He is a horse that has had a lot of problems, so I would prefer to retire him, he has done his job."
Brett Prebble produced a piece of magic on Flashing Guy when he found the box seat in race four, trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung marvelling at the Australian's navigation.
"If I told you they were my instructions, to be there from the gate, I would be lying," Man admitted.