A head, a neck and three-quarters of a length stood between Zac Purton and what might have been considered a perfect day but he still equalled his own best afternoon at the races with five victories on Saturday.
Purton won five at Sha Tin on October 26, 2014, and looked headed for a new personal best when Hot King Prawn, Hard Ball Get and Winner’s Way gave him the first three yesterday to take his career tally in Hong Kong to 695 wins and past Gary Moore to fourth on the all-time list.
But Namjong Invincible missed by just under a length in the fourth then Super Junior had the fifth all parcelled up before a freak effort from Ivictory caught him on the line.
Purton added Lucky Dollar in the seventh and King Genki in the eighth but was denied a sixth when Sunny Way came too late to catch Beauty Kingdom in the last. Five wins and three seconds still looked a fair return from nine rides.
“It looked a good day on paper, I had some nice rides but those days don’t always turn out that way on the track,” Purton said. “Fortunately my horses were in good form and brought it to the races.”
Punters thought that Hot King Prawn and Winner’s Way were gifts but there was a bit to do on some of the other winners.
“Hard Ball Get looked a bit tricky on paper from the bad draw as there appeared no speed in the race,” Purton said.
“Things like that have ended up messy for him on a number of occasions in the past, so I thought it looked difficult but turned out well. I think he appreciated the bit of rain around, he seemed to let down nicely with the cut in the ground.”
The Benno Yung Tin-pang-trained Lucky Dollar had caught the eye at his first local run coming from gate 14 to run second over 1,200m and this time had what is usually the wrong draw down the straight but the course was more forgiving on Saturday.
“It’s easy to like everything he’s done here and he got a nice confidence-boosting win today,” Purton said.
“He flew the gates but didn’t have the speed to cross those horses and they were in a bit of a hurry so I let them go, got him in his rhythm and travelled. Benno had said don’t worry too much about getting to the outside fence today, but you always prefer to get there if you can. Anyway he travelled well where he was and really finished it off.”
Purton’s touch proved the difference on the Tony Cruz-trained King Genki, who hasn’t been able to get a soft time running in the lead lately on the dirt but had enough to last this time.
“He deserved a win and he still did it the hard way. They made him work around the first corner but we know him well, we know he’s one-paced and we know Tony loves his horses getting out there and getting their teeth in the wind and running along,” Purton said.
“So I persevered with him, I never worried about trying to use the brakes in front, because it’s counterproductive with him. I just kept letting him be happy and cruise along.”
The win was King Genki’s first in 16 starts, after he arrived here as a potential Derby prospect from France and Cruz says the dirt has been the key.
“He’s had a few kids on him and they haven’t ridden him as well as Zac did today,” Cruz said. “It has taken a long time to win a race with him and he does seem to like the dirt but I think it’s possible he could win on the turf as we get towards the end of the season and the tracks get a bit softer.”