Barriers proved more costly for some than for others at Sha Tin yesterday but not in the usual way, and Zac Purton was on both ends of the equation.
The wide barrier didn’t stop 267-1 chance Twin Delight being the longest-priced winner since Winning Associates at 317-1 in October 2001, nor did the outside draw prove insurmountable for Joao Moreira on Good For You.
Moreira has made a slow start, by his standards, misses the next two cards with suspension and will resume for meeting number six with only four winners in the tin, but Good For You stands as ride of the season until beaten by something better.
A bit of vintage Magic Man; jagging back to last and finding the rails to creep through around the bend into a striking position, then arriving in the last stride, centimetre perfect. The wide gate proved no barrier to victory, though Moreira did have a barrier problem with Golden Deer coming out lengths behind in the sixth before being declared a runner.
On the other hand, John Moore-trained Chevalier Star has a long history with barriers, wide or otherwise, and it isn’t good – once last season he didn’t bother to leave the gates with the rest of the field for Purton but was deemed a runner.
Yesterday, punters who backed Chevalier Star in the same race as Golden Deer, only to see him come out well behind the field, got their money back as his blindfold was still across half of his face when the gates opened.
Maybe it was one of those situations where the stewards, the jockey and the starter didn’t need much discussion – it’s Chevalier Star and that was enough explanation in itself. Never mind the blindfold, get him a dunce cap.
He was made a non-runner and one of four late scratchings on the day that forced the Jockey Club to, without enthusiasm, return HK$53 million worth of bets to punters.
Purton, however, found himself on the right side of ledger with the barriers though in race eight, when two late removals from the runners allowed his mount, Sky Hero, to sail unimpeded across the field early, find the lead on the rail and land a huge betting move.
Both of the late scratchings were fast horses drawn underneath Sky Hero – Sea Ruby, who had his own personal issues with the barriers and injured himself, and Mint Master, who threw a shoe in the saddling area, then got hot and bothered and became a danger to himself and others as the farrier attempted to replace it.
Even Purton and winning trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak could barely conceal their mirth at the stroke of good fortune.
“It definitely did make it easier for him to get across,” they reported in harmony.
Sky Hero has had breathing issues that proved a barrier to him being the Class One horse his talent should have made him but with all the favours in Class Three, he got the job done when it seemed plenty wanted him to do so.
The goings on at the barriers kept the stewards on their toes, something that meeting three had in common with meetings one and two, and it was a particularly late finish for them but we’ll have to wait longer to find out why.
Kim Kelly’s panel was interrogating jockey Howard Cheng Yue-tin after the last event regarding his riding tactics in the Sky Hero race on another of the anticipated speed horses, Startling Power, who was not as prominent as usual.
In the process of that inquiry, Kelly admits that “something else came up” which apparently required closer examination and the stewards adjourned the whole thing to a later date.
Piquant, tantalising even, but out of reach right now. At least there were no barriers involved.