Zac Purton is only keeping the saddle warm for fellow Australian Hugh Bowman but is happy to be on Lucky Bubbles in the lead-up to December’s international races, starting with Sunday’s Group Two Premier Bowl at Sha Tin.
Bowman was aboard Lucky Bubbles for the sprinter’s Group One breakthrough in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize in May and will return to ride the six-year-old in the Group One Hong Kong Sprint on December 10.
That leaves Purton to partner Francis Lui Kin-wai’s stable star this weekend and again next month in the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint.
“It’s my understanding that Hugh has been booked to ride him on international day, so at this stage it is just a two race commitment for me, I’ll just make the most of it,” Purton said. “We always go out there trying to win every race anyway, I’ll take what I can get when I can.”
The retirement of sprinter of the year and last year’s Hong Kong Sprint winner Aerovelocity has left Purton without a ride in the big sprints, but also a chance for another horse to take the mantle as the best at the shorter distances.
“The sprinters were taking it in turns last season, it just depended on who had the right run in the race and who had the tempo to suit in the day, and I don’t see it being too dissimilar this season,” Purton said.
A six-year-old with 17 starts and a Group One on his resume doesn’t scream upside, and it would seem Lucky Bubbles is most likely as he is – a dependable horse at Group One level, but not one that will dominate every time out.
Purton believes Lucky Bubbles might have another step left in him though.
“Maybe Lucky Bubbles had a little bit more to give last season,” Purton said. “He still looked a little bit soft in many respects and I thought he could strengthen up a little bit more. If he has done that then that will help him. The horses he was racing against have had that chance to strengthen up as well though, so he needs to take another step.”
Also coming under the heading of “as advertised” is Beauty Only, the horse Purton rode to victory in last year’s Group One Hong Kong Mile.
Beauty Only carries equal top weight in the Group Two Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1,600m) on Sunday, with Purton measuring his expectations under handicap conditions.
“He is coming along well, his first trial this season was a bit below par and I was worried he had come back from Japan a little bit jaded, but his first-up run was good I thought,” Purton said, referring to a closing fifth with top weight in the Group Three Celebration Cup. “The tempo didn’t suit him that day, and neither did the ground, but I expect him to keep improving as we move towards international day.”