Zac Purton is doing his best to manage the expectations around unbeaten sprinter Hot King Prawn but admits the three-year-old will be difficult to beat in the Class Three Middle Handicap (1,000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
“It can be dangerous to put a big boom on a young sprinter because they can end up disappointing you more often than not,” Purton said.
“In Hong Kong everyone is looking for the next big thing. With only two meetings per week I guess everybody needs something to talk about, so as soon as a horse comes out and looks impressive like he has, everybody is all over it.”
Hot King Prawn won two Griffin races by a combined margin of eight lengths last season and returned with a comprehensive two and a quarter length victory in Class Three on November 5.
“It was always going to be interesting to see how he came back this season so it was good to see him win in the fashion he did,” Purton said. “The Griffin form usually stacks up each year, and even though last season’s bunch did look below average.”
Adding some credence to that first-up display was the fact Hot King Prawn was forced to work from a middle draw on the straight course.
This time the speedy grey will jump from “pole” position – gate 14 – from where he can race hard up against the grandstand-side rail.
“Of course in the straight races you always want to be drawn on the outside,” Purton said. “He has raced against the outside fence before and not had any issues and he has plenty of speed so there is no doubt that he will be right up there, probably leading the race.”
A win on Sunday would put Hot King Prawn into Class Two and against some high quality opposition, but Purton believes the son of Denman “has obvious scope to improve”.
“He is such a relaxed horse that we probably won’t know how good he is until he gets put under some pressure. He has trialled around a bend and although he is not a seasoned professional just yet, I don’t see it being a problem when that day comes to tackle 1,200m.”
Purton has eight rides and while the first five sit much higher in betting markets, his final ride of the day, Mr Genuine, could sneak an upset at double-figure odds in a competitive Class Two dirt sprint.
“It’s an interesting race, there’s a lot of speed in it and some really nice horses,” Purton said.
“Mr Genuine is on a rating now where his life is difficult, and he seems to have drawn some tricky gates. But I think the dirt is a nice surface for him and from the gate he is going to be able to just sit off the back of them.”