Fresh off his Group One double in Singapore on Saturday, Zac Purton continued his golden run at Sha Tin with victory aboard Winner’s Way in the Group Three Sha Tin Vase (1,200m) on his way to five winners on Sunday.
The haul – which follows Purton’s four-timer last weekend – sees the Australian close within two of Joao Moreira in the race for the jockeys’ championship.
“I’ve still got work to do though, I’d prefer to be in front than behind but I have some nice enough rides coming up so hopefully I can close the gap even more,” he said.
“I feel like I’m getting more opportunities, that’s the difference I think,” Purton added about his superb run of form.
Purton delivered the “perfect” ride on Winner’s Way after the gelding was a touch slow away and settled seventh in the field of eight, following the rail before pulling out at the 300m and booting to the front.
Winner's Way scores a first Group success in the G3 Sha Tin Vase (1200m) as @zpurton makes it three wins from the first four races to go with his Singapore double last night #HKRacing pic.twitter.com/5iz7DKlFKW— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) May 27, 2018
“He ran a really good race here two starts back and then last time bungled the start and things didn’t go well,” he said.
“With the speed in the race today he was able to relax, pick his way through and he won well. He’s at a point now where he deserves to be running against the big boys, he’s probably just half a step below them but he definitely deserves to be taking his place.”
For trainer Tony Cruz, Purton’s touch was crucial after Winner’s Way struggled to seventh under Alberto Sanna after starting in similar fashion last time out four weeks ago.
“It was 1,400m [last time], he kind of missed the start a bit and he started running too keenly behind,” Cruz said.
“Today was 1,200m and he is not that fast [away], Zac rode the perfect race, he was just patient on the horse and got the inside run and in the straight he accelerated.”
It was Winner’s Way’s first success at Group level and his first at 1,200m after three previous victories over 1,400m and one at 1,650m, however Cruz is not keen to push his charge beyond seven furlongs again.
“He can run the 1,200m and the 1,400m, a mile is a bit too far for him,” Cruz said. “At the end of June there is a 1,400m Group Three race [the Premier Cup], so it looks like we are heading that way.”
Lucky Bubbles was the big disappointment from the race, who looked a mile from his Group One-winning best on his way to finishing last of eight in a disinterested showing.
“He just doesn’t want to be a racehorse here at the moment. He’s mentally not there, he doesn’t even want to go in the race,” said jockey Brett Prebble.
“They will probably do something a bit different, send him away and give him a break somewhere else and freshen his mind.
“He’s a sound horse, he’s a six-year-old with 23 career starts, if you can get into him that will to want to race again, well it’s hard to find that quality of horse.”
Purton made a blistering start to the meet, notching four wins in the first six races including a running treble between races two and four, saluting on Goko for Dennis Yip Chor-hong in race two and Sunny Power for Francis Lui Kin-wai in the third to go with Winner’s Way.
Purton’s class shone through yet again in race six when he worked Experto Crede through traffic to give John Moore his 1,600th Hong Kong winner and he capped off another big day with victory aboard Sacred Ibis for Paul O’Sullivan in the 10th.
“It was very hot there yesterday and it was hot here today so it’s obviously a grind getting through the days but it seems a little bit easier when you have the odd winner here and there,” a modest Purton said about his jam-packed weekend.