Take the focus off Joao Moreira’s record-breaking exploits for a moment and it becomes clear that Zac Purton is having an outstanding campaign of his own and it can continue on Thursday night at Happy Valley.
Moreira has an amazing 134 winners but in recent weeks Purton has struck a rich vein of form, riding a double at each of the last four meetings, to reach 70 wins through 62 meetings.
Purton has five rides for five different trainers on Thursday but all are in with a chance and the Australian also has the benefit of not wasting heavily, with his lowest weight 122 pounds.
Trainer Caspar Fownes sending an untapped prospect to his beloved circuit after some encouraging runs at the bigger tracks always attracts attention and Best Step looks hard to beat in the Siu Sai Wan Handicap.
Best Step did a good job on debut when fourth up the straight before another encouraging effort second-up over the same course and distance on April 9.
On that occasion, an awkward jump meant Purton was forced into defensive tactics and lost valuable ground at the start and Best Step ran on quite well.
Drawn barrier eight over the 1,000m course, Best Step will need some luck and all of Purton’s tactical brilliance in a race where Beauty Connection (Moreira) is likely to start favourite, but expect a step forward from the three-year-old.
Two starts ago, Purton was able to extract a maiden win out of Dennis Yip Chor-hong’s My Blessing and the four-year-old looks well-placed coming back to 1,650m in the Kowloon Bay Handicap.
It took a beautiful ride to find the box seat on My Blessing back in February and Yip’s galloper was able to cruise to a soft win as a well-backed favourite.
My Blessing was given another good ride by Matthew Chadwick last start, jumping from barrier 10 but slotting into a one-out, one-back position, and ran well for third.
Still, five weeks between runs and the step up to 1,800m probably wasn’t ideal, even with a lead-up trial, and the 1,650m looks a more effective distance at this point.
From gate one, My Blessing again should get every chance in a typically mediocre Class Five affair.
Purton won’t have as many favours when in-form import Jade Fortune jumps from an awkward gate in the So Kon Po Handicap in the last.
Jade Fortune was a Group Two winner as a juvenile in New Zealand but, like many imports, struggled for form as a three-year-old.
A switch to the more forgiving Happy Valley surface and less demanding two-turn 1,650m course seems to have done the trick for Manfred Man Ka-leung’s four-year-old.
A closing third after sitting three-wide the trip, beaten half a length by Thunder Stomp, put the writing on the wall, before another fast finishing display three weeks ago attracted the services of Purton.
Jade Fortune was beaten just a short-head by High Volatility in a race where the strong leader bias and a bad draw worked against jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun.
Leung was forced to go back near the tail after a slow jump and couldn’t catch the leader after spotting High Volatility more than six lengths with 400 metres remaining.
Of course, there is no reason that the track, with the rail in the B position, won’t play in a similar manner, and Purton certainly faces the same tactical dilemma with Jade Fortune in a competitive race.
Purton also rides Amazing Feeling for Richard Gibson and the Paul O’Sullivan-trained course specialist Moment Of Power.