Zac Purton gets the first of two “free hits” in his jockeys’ championship battle with Joao Moreira on Saturday at Sha Tin and the Australian rider’s strong book of rides should see him bridge some of the gap with the Brazilian.
Moreira sits out the first meeting of a two-day suspension and Purton goes to the races trailing the three-time defending champion by nine wins in the standings.
Each of Purton’s eight rides were single figures in betting and five were clear favourite on Friday night, resulting in the 35 year-old opening a $1.70 top pick in Jockey Challenge betting.
Perhaps Purton’s best chance of the day comes in race nine when Danny Shum Chap-shing’s sprinter Pick Number One tries to maintain his unbeaten record on dirt in the Class Three Oak Maritime Handicap (1,200m).
Pick Number One has won two from two on the all-weather track, both in good style, and has again been blessed with a low draw.
If Purton hasn’t wrapped up the Jockey Challenge by the last race, Turin Redstar seems a terrific chance of sealing it as he steps up in distance in the Class Three Hong Kong Sprit Handicap (1,400m).
Turin Redstar was taken back from a wide gate first-up by Derek Leung Ka-chun before running home nicely for fifth behind Easy Go Easy Win.
The four-year-old has trialled well since and, from barrier one, he will be better placed in the run this time around.
A sign of Purton’s all-around support is that his eight rides come from eight different stables and his chances early in the day also provide point-scoring opportunities in the Jockey Challenge.
Purton misses race one but in the second he partners Manfred Man Ka-leung’s Ever Laugh as the four-year-old returns to the Sha Tin turf in the Class Four Wah Kwong Maritime Handicap (1,400m).
Ever Laugh charged home for third behind C P Power over the same course and distance first-up and followed that with another course and distance second behind Indigenous Star.
The back-marker was then stuck wide in the run before finishing fifth last start at Happy Valley over 1,650m and although drawn wide again should appreciate the switch back to Sha Tin.
Trainer Chris So Wai-yin has chosen an interesting starting point for Purton’s second ride Beauty Energy.
The English import won two from four racing exclusively at 1,600m for former trainer Richard Hannon, the horse’s only unplaced run an 11th as favourite in the 2017 Britannia Stakes.
A sparkling trial has convinced So to start the horse’s campaign up the straight in the Class Three Oak Steamship Handicap (1,000m).