Zac Purton secures January Cup with John Moore’s Harbour Master at Happy Valley
The tactical genius of the Australian jockey proves the difference as he finishes with a treble, including the Group Three feature
After already throwing forward a candidate for ride of the season on Casa Master, Zac Purton then capped a treble with another superbly judged ride on Harbour Master in the Group Three January Cup at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Purton’s premeditated mid-race move on Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Casa Master basically stole a Class Four win earlier in the evening and trainer John Moore was in raptures over the Australian jockey’s tactical awareness in the feature.
Having already ridden a winner on Moore’s Isaac for the first leg of his three-timer, Purton then managed to time his run to perfection on Harbour Master as the seven-year-old edged out Shum’s Circuit Land in a thrilling finish.
“That was an incredible ride,” Moore said after Purton seized an opportunity to trail the runner-up into the race as the speed came on early. “Zac just took his time, he got out the back from the wide draw. But when it came time he made ground, he could see the formation of the race in front of him and made his way out when everybody inside of him was finding trouble.”
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Moore admitted Harbour Master may now struggle for opportunities with a rating of 110-plus.
“He is a real Happy Valley horse, he just doesn’t handle the firmer surface at Sha Tin, it takes a toll on him, he needs the give and that is why he likes the dirt as well,” he said.
Improving stayer Packing Dragon hung on for third after leading but Moore suggested his fourth placegetter Basic Trilogy was the hard luck story of the race after failing to find clear running for Joao Moreira in the straight.
“If he gets a run he probably wins and we get the stable quinella,” he said.
Isaac has now won two from three and the four-year-old sprinter keeps on improving.
“When he got to the stable I really thought he was six months away, but he has just kept progressing,” Moore said. “Zac rode him in trackwork on Saturday and jumped off and said, ‘this isn’t a Class Four horse’, and he was right, we have got a real racehorse on our hands there.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Purton’s ride on Casa Master – where he looped the field at precisely the right time and left his rivals flat-footed in the back straight – was that he “called his shot”, predicting to connections exactly how the race would play out in the pre-race chat.
“Zac stood here and said what would happen, we talked it through and that was the plan,” Shum said. “It’s great for the owners, to feel part of the team like that. That’s what racing needs to be all about, making the owner feel like they are included. It’s a thrill to win, but even more exciting when the jockey tells you how it is all going to happen.”
A Class Five victory for jockey Olivier Doleuze carried a little more excitement than usual for the Frenchman as he won a race for staunch supporter Caspar Fownes for the first time this season on Invisible.
Doleuze punched the air as he crossed the line on the five-year-old, the win his sixth for the season but first for Fownes since June, breaking a sequence of 45 rides without a winner for the stable.
“It was a good ride and hopefully that gives him a kick along too,” Fownes said.
The biggest dividends of the night came when Brett Prebble orchestrated an upset on Me Tsui Yu-sak’s Happy Bao Bei at 62-1, beating home 105-1 shot Travel Successor and creating a $14,308 quinella.