Top jockey Zac Purton fell short of any new high-water marks but for his friend and major provider, trainer Paul O’Sullivan, four wins at Sha Tin on Sunday was a new personal best to burst a levy bank that had been under pressure all season.
“I feel like I’m John Size for a day,” laughed O’Sullivan after Purton steered home Aeroluminance, Starship and Namjong Invincible for the yard as part of his own four-timer then Karis Teetan added Willie Way to give the popular Kiwi his best haul from an afternoon at the races in Hong Kong.
“It hasn’t been my best season on paper but I have been looking at the placings pile up and I was second only to John on the place strike rate and not that far behind. So it’s been a better season than
has been reflected in the winners and there has been a good run coming.
“There have been a lot of frustrating seconds and bad luck in races so at some stage you know it’s going to balance out.”
"I feel like John Size for the day", Paul O'Sullivan after Willie Way's dirt win gives his stable four wins at a meeting for the first time pic.twitter.com/NqmdFUt4Pd— Michael Cox (@KemblaCoxy) June 18, 2017
Willie Way had won earlier in the season but, as if to back up O’Sullivan’s argument, Aeroluminance, Namjong Invincible and Starship were all breaking through for their maiden win in Hong Kong, and all coming off minor placings last start.
“Aeroluminance has the ability to win in Class Four but, mentally, he can’t put it together and has been his own worst enemy,” Purton said.
“From the good draw today, he couldn’t have had a better run in the race. Maybe the sting out of the track slowed the others down from being able to pick him up. He has loomed before and not gone through with his races but I hope he will take some confidence from this so he knows what to do next time.”
Starship is a different type of case though, showing an impressive turn of foot to take out a Class Four but he has indicated at other times this season he’s better than that.
“He’s a typical Hong Kong case of a horse with form overseas taking time to acclimatise and now he has settled in, he could go on with it,” Purton said.
“He did show a nice turn of foot today. There was a run inside for him but was tight and he was balking at going through it so I came out further and he accelerated nicely through the gap. He idled in front so there’s a bit more there.”
Namjong Invincible has probably been the most frustrating of the three, with a record of bad luck in races going back to his debut last season and another seven well-spaced appearances since, and O’Sullivan said the gelding simply won’t ever be seen at his best due to vet issues.
“To start with, he has terrible arthritis in his back but there’s a long list,” O’Sullivan said.
“I’ve changed a few things around and that seems to have helped but I think switching to the dirt his last two starts has made a difference.
“Zac has ridden him most of his start and he said after his last grass run that he couldn’t pick his legs up. So I gave him a break, switched to the dirt and it’s a bit easier on them, less jarring, and that has been the reason for his turnaround.
“The horse has Class Three ability, no doubt, but his physical problems have held him back and maybe they will always stop him reaching his potential.”
Purton had won five on a day as recently as a month ago and a new personal best looked on the cards when he raced though the first five races with four victories but, after just being touched off in the sixth, some heavy favourites late in the day failed to live up to their billing and four was the score, leaving him three short of a century for the season.