Zac Purton gets a golden opportunity to eat into Joao Moreira’s jockeys’ championship lead on Wednesday and can close out the Happy Valley meeting with victories on Winwin Ruby and Starlight after both horses were blessed with good barriers on the tricky C + 3 course.
Moreira leads the title race with 24 wins, but Purton is closing – in fact many believe he is the more in-form of the two riders right now – and he is only five wins behind the Brazilian.
With Moreira missing the next two meetings through suspension, Purton can pounce, starting with a strong book of rides at the city track.
Purton is the leading rider at Happy Valley so far this season, guiding home 10 winners to Moreira’s five at the venue at a strike rate of 22 per cent.
Trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung brings Winwin Ruby across town for the first time and 1,650m looks ideal for the four-year-old in the Class Three Dordenma Handicap.
Winwin Ruby broke through over 1,600m at Sha Tin late last term and the New Zealand import has run two good races over the same course and distance so far this season.
From gate two Purton can have Winwin Ruby close, the horse possessing enough natural early speed to maintain a prominent spot in the run.
The pace in the race will largely depend on the tactics of Nash Rawiller on Lucky Girl, a horse that is usually allowed to roll forward and make the running. Go Beauty Go (Tommy Berry) also races on the speed, while Bank On Red (Umberto Rispoli) and Mister Monte (Matthew Chadwick) were sent forward at their last starts.
Dennis Yip Chor-hong has turned Starlight around since the gelding dropped to the brink of Class Five midway through last season.
Since winning off a mark of 41 in May, Starlight has won three and missed a place just once in seven starts, all over 1,200m at the Valley.
Starlight has won three of his last four, including his past two and now, remarkably, sits on the cusp of Class Two, carrying top weight in the Class Three Perfect Gear Handicap.
Even though nine points is a significant rise in ratings, the ease of the five-year-old’s last start win indicated Starlight still has more to give and another win looks achievable here.
Starlight has shown he has the tactical versatility to take advantage of low draws and should be able to sit up handy, but still avoid the push and shove that may take place early.
Good Companion (Chadwick) and So Fast (Jack Wong Ho-nam) go forward, and if Matthew Poon Ming-fai gets involved on Grace Heart it could create a pressure race.
That will play into Purton’s hands on Starlight, who has shown the ability to sprint sharply off an ideal race set-up that he should get again.
Another of Purton’s rides drawing a better barrier is Victory Follow Me in the Class Five Powerful Handicap (1,650m).
First-up this season Victory Follow Me finished runner-up to Speedy Wally, a horse who won impressively with Purton aboard at its next start.
Victory Follow Me drew wide gates at his next two though and was set an impossible task last start when trapped wide and forced to make an early run.
From gate three Victory Follow Me will be afforded a much better run and should be able to win his way out of the grade.
Keep a big watch on Spicy Double (Derek Leung Ka-chun) though, with Frankie Lor Fu-chuen out to maintain his tremendous Class Five record so far.