Zac Purton is out to further eat into Joao Moreira’s championship lead at Sha Tin on Saturday and he can kick off the meeting in style with debutant Victorious Leader.
The Australian trails the Magic Man by eight winners with 18 meetings remaining for the term and while he “only” has seven rides on the 10-race card, all of them are strong chances according to the early markets and he opened up as favourite for the Jockey Challenge.
The Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained Victorious Leader caught the eye when second in a trial last month and has drawn along the outside rail for the Class Four Macau-Taipa Bridge Handicap down the 1,000m straight.
While the three-year-old clearly has ability, Purton thinks he will need a bit of luck to kick his career off on a winning note.
“He’s a nice enough horse but he makes life hard for himself at the start – he has always been very slow out of the gates and in a 1,000m race here at Sha Tin it is not ideal. He is going to be spotting them a start,” he said.
“He has given the impression that he is going to be a miler as time goes on but he feels sharp enough to compete at this distance. He is strong, he just can’t get mobile early but he’ll be working to the line.”
Purton will also be aboard another get-back runner in Michael Freedman’s Famous Warrior, who has been building towards a victory.
His second to Land Grant last start had plenty of merit as he was the only back-marker to make ground.
“It was a race of two bunches really – there was the leading group of five or six horses and then the horses that were midfield who just seemed to drag the horses behind them out of the race,” Purton told the Jockey Club.
“By the time I got to the 700m or 800m I was just spotting too much of a start. I really had to ride him hard from there to get him into the race. He finished the race off well, but he’s still a work in progress, he’s not straightforward. He thinks about what he is going which is why the blinkers are going on – hopefully that makes a difference.
“But once again, he’s a horse that is going to get back in his race and we hope that there is speed on and you can make ground on the day.”
The jockey also rode Famous Warrior’s main danger Go Beauty Go last start and believes either could win depending on how the race is run.
“If its a slowly run race Go Beauty Go is obviously well-placed but if there’s a bit of speed, my bloke will be closing,” Purton said.