If Zac Purton had attempted the same move in a midweek Class Four at Happy Valley, he would never have got away with it, but he managed to steal Hong Kong’s richest race from under the noses of his rivals and they let him do it.
Purton took Tony Cruz-trained Time Warp to the front soon after the gates opened for the HK$25 million Longines Hong Kong Cup, started slowly then surreptitiously upped the tempo every 400m until he was belting into the final stages at top speed and defeat was unthinkable.
“I wasn’t that surprised to be left alone in front. There didn’t look a lot of pace on paper so, unless somebody did something different, I thought I’d get my way,” Purton said, after adding the Cup to his International Jockeys’ Championship win last Wednesday night completed the rare achievement of having won all four of the December international races.
“I did have a very easy time in front and that was key to the result. Tony has a great deal of confidence in this horse. He rang me this morning to specifically talk about this one, so I thought he must be pretty keen. I think Time Warp’s still improving, we’re only just seeing the best of him now.”
Gerald Mosse was the first to win all four in 2009, Joao Moreira followed in 2016 and Purton became only the third with Time Warp, his sixth international in total.
It was trainer Tony Cruz’s ninth international win but the first in the red and black colours for Hong Kong’s biggest owners, the Siu family.
The family had enjoyed a Group One success as part of an ownership syndicate with Liberator in the Champions & Chater Cup but Time Warp was the first to call their own and in the race where Irian had so narrowly failed to deliver the win in 2010.
Time Warp is a former French horse, who took his time to get going here but blossomed in the latter part of last season as maturity and acclimatisation started to kick in and his first local win, in course record time at Happy Valley, convinced Cruz that he had something.
“That first time he won at Happy Valley, in a course record, he convinced me he can even run 2,200m there,” Cruz said. “But for his handicap rating, there are no longer races at Happy Valley so we had to come here.
“The last two starts, he didn’t have a smooth race but he had a perfect race today and was able to show how good his ability is. I was sure we could have our tactics today – this horse loves to be in front, even in France he loved to go to the front.
“I just told Zac to stay cool and he did exactly what I wanted. I said just wait for them to come and push you and, when they come, just take off.”
Purton shifted up a gear from a 24-second section coming to the home straight to just over 22 seconds down the lane and that was the race.
Favourite Werther was trapped behind horses when Tommy Berry would have liked to get out and on his way and the times made his task impossible by the time he was clear.
“It was frustrating to watch for a trainer – you know you’ve had the right horse and had him in perfect shape and just haven’t got the result he deserved,” said John Moore.
The QE II Cup winner, Japan’s Neorealism, pulled hard for Joao Moreira, which didn’t help his finish and he had to be content with third.