The combination of Zac Purton and Paul O’Sullivan has been quietly prosperous over many seasons and they link up with in-form Rule Thee as a powerful chance in the Association of Hong Kong Racing Journalists Challenge Cup (1,800m) at Sha Tin on Saturday.
Over the years, the Purton-O’Sullivan team has not attracted the same kind of attention as some other jockey-trainer partnerships but it has been extremely successful, ringing up 94 wins from 582 races together.
That is an effective 16 per cent strike rate over more than 10 years, showing a whopping return of almost 19 per cent for punters who blindly back every runner when they team up.
They team with a stayer on Saturday who took a season to really get going in Hong Kong but looks to be on his way now.
He has won twice this campaign, both in his past three starts, and his impressive victory over this distance last start indicated there should be more to come and he looks capable of paying his way in Class Two.
For now, he is still in Class Three but is up in the weights for that last win.
Parked up on the speed by Purton, Rule Thee put a big gap between himself and his rivals from the 250m mark. The handicapper didn’t miss it, pushing his rating up by nine points in response but that might not be enough to stop him being highly competitive again.
At first glance, his draw in the outside gate of 10 looks a little bit sticky, but there is a long run down the back to the first turn and Purton will get plenty of opportunity to sum up the speed and either use similar tactics to last start or take him back if the pace is strong.
His main danger could be lightly handicapped General Dino (Derek Leung Ka-chun), who is having the 16th start but the first beyond a mile.
General Dino is a son of Doctor Dino, the globetrotting stayer who put Richard Gibson’s name on the world map with wins including back-to-back Hong Kong Vases. So, it seems logical that General Dino might appreciate a lift in distance and everything about how he races has suggested he will be comfortable going further.
He maps nicely from barrier one, where Leung should have him close to the front-runners without having to spend any petrol early, and the gelding should make his presence felt with no weight on his back.
Tai Smart (Joao Moreira) also looks a strong chance although he does have a bit of ground to make up on Rule Thee.