If it’s October then Hong Kong’s top jockeys are doing their best to grab some of the big money at the Melbourne Spring Carnival and Joao Moreira on Wednesday picked up a leading Melbourne Cup ride while Zac Purton was sweating for his well-fancied Caulfield Cup mount this Saturday.
Moreira has been announced as the rider for Heartbreak City, an Irish-trained stayer who mixes flat racing with jumps – a very potent combination for past Melbourne Cup visitors from that part of the world – and sits on the fourth line of betting for Australia’s favourite race.
For Purton, the engagement is more immediate, as he chases a second Caulfield Cup to go with his win on Japanese stayer Admire Rakti, this time on a German stayer, Articus, trained by world-renowned handler Andreas Wohler.
Wohler’s previous international credits include a QE II Cup at Sha Tin with Silvano and, of course, the Melbourne Cup win by Protectionist two years ago in the colours of Australian Bloodstock that will now adorn Articus after he was bought specifically for Melbourne.
And that’s where the Purton connection arrived, with Australian Bloodstock calling him last month to ride Articus in the Caulfield Cup, where the stayer is a $9 third favourite.
“They called me out of the blue and the horse originally had 52.5 kg (116 pounds), which is outside my weight range, but they told me the weights would be raised and they expected he might have two kilograms more. That brought him into my range but it also made me very focused on getting my weight right,” Purton said on Wednesday after a sweat session.
Unlike his last two Caulfield Cup mounts, Admire Rakti and Fame Game, Purton has not had the chance to acquaint himself with Articus in a track gallop and admits to being in the dark on the stayer, other than what he can see in the form guide or on replays.
“I don’t know much more than anyone else. I guess there’s a question of how he’ll run 2,400m, as he’s never tried it, and even how he’s going – he has never run for Wohler because he was transferred from Waldemar Hickst when Australian Bloodstock bought him,” Purton said. “But the reports I’ve had from Melbourne have been encouraging, he looks to have some tactical speed, at least in terms of German racing. How that plays in Australian race tempo, we’ll have to see and barrier eleven could be awkward if he finds the pace there a bit sharper than what he’s used to early, but the other positive is that he looks a lightly-raced horse on the way up and that’s certainly a plus.”
Purton said he was unsure of any further sorties into Melbourne this southern spring at this stage.
“There’s Sacred Elixir, who I won a Group One on in Brisbane as a two-year-old – he’s going for the three-year-old staying race Cox Plate day and then the Victoria Derby a week later but I don’t know whether the club will let me go for those rides,” he said. “Other than that, I don’t have any offers at the moment.”