Star jockey Zac Purton brought up his 100th winner of the season while trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak collected half the card as the unlikely duo dominated Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Heading into the meeting, the two had combined for just three winners together from 11 starts this season, but they joined forces to take the opening race on Starlit Knight.
Tsui went on to take three of the next four contests with Dragon Pioneer, Enormous Honour and Good For You, while Purton got back in the winner’s circle in the sixth event, saluting on Super Hoppy for Danny Shum Chap-shing.
This is the third time for the Australian has hit the milestone for a season, but he has never done it this quickly. He got there in the 675th race of the 2013-14 season and only needed 655 this time around.
“It’s nice to get there, it’s always the target at the start of the season to ride 100,” Purton said.
“I think for me at the weight that I ride, that’s a good number to get to. It means you’ve had a pretty successful season and that’s been the case.
“So in one respect, it’s job done but in another respect I’ve got a new target.”
That new goal is the jockeys’ title and after the double, Purton now trails three-time defending champion Joao Moreira by eight winners.
While the Magic Man was able to get a victory himself with Dragon Pioneer to keep a buffer, he will miss two of the remaining 16 meetings after copping a suspension at Sha Tin on Sunday.
“It’s very hard when you’re behind and chasing but I have a bit of support at the moment and my horses are running well,” Purton said.
“I just need another good meeting and there won’t be much in it. Unfortunately for Joao, he’s got that suspension and it gives me a bit of a chance. I probably needed that to happen.”
For Tsui, it was the second time he has enjoyed a four-timer this season, having also achieved the feat at Sha Tin on December 3, but it wasn’t something he anticipated.
“No, I wasn’t expecting that, I thought one or two would be enough,” Tsui said.
“Enormous Honour surprised me and Jack Wong [Ho-nam] did a really good job on Good For You. At the 300m he had to choose whether to go outside or inside – he took a risk and went inside and it paid off. If he went outside, he wouldn’t have been able to catch up.”
While those two might have reached their mark, the trainer has reason to believe there could be more in store for Dragon Pioneer and Starlit Knight after both broke through for their maiden Hong Kong wins.
“The draw helped Dragon Pioneer a lot. The last few times I put the blinkers on and he had been too keen so I put the hood on and he led and wasn’t too keen for Joao,” Tsui said.
“Starlit Knight came to Hong Kong last season and has been a bit disappointing. He needed a season to drop in rating and get used to Hong Kong. He can do something in Class Four now.”
Shum also has bigger hopes for Super Hoppy, who collected a smart win in his first start for the stable.
“Zac rode a really good race on him. He will improve this horse – he didn’t jump that well tonight and it was lucky he got a gap,” Shum said. “He will keep learning and I think this horse is better than Class Three.”
Trainer Me Tsui takes the early feature, the St George's Challenge Cup, with Dragon Pioneer as Joao Moreira hits back in the jockeys' championship #HKRacing #HappyWednesdayHK pic.twitter.com/3UZAW67H1e— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) May 16, 2018
Wong finished the night with a double, having earlier combined with Caspar Fownes to lead all the way on Nice Fandango.
The apprentice now has 66 Hong Kong wins in his career, just four shy of joining the senior jockey ranks.
The only rider to earn the wrath of stewards was Keith Yeung Ming-lun, who was outed for two meetings for his effort on Victory Follow Me.