Another Happy Valley masterclass from Zac Purton kicked the in-form Australian five clear in the jockeys’ championship with eight meetings to go, but he refused to say a second title is his.
“I’m not going to call it. Of course there’s a long way to go,” Purton said after rival Joao Moreira returned from a two-meeting suspension down by one win but went home zero from eight on the night.
“Joao isn’t done yet, he is also capable of big meetings and multiple winners, he has proved that time and again. I’m not comfortable yet.”
Purton put on a clinic with a four-timer as Aeroluminance, Buoyant Boy, Hot King Prawn and Super Hoppy gave him what might be an unbeatable break.
Many already had a win in the book for Purton courtesy of star-in-waiting Hot King Prawn and the grey flash delivered in Class Two, clearing out to take his career record to six victories from seven starts.
“It’s never easy for a horse coming here for the first time and he is only three,” Purton said of the John Size-trained flying machine.
“But his racing style, and his character, suggested it wouldn’t be a problem. He had the bonus of barrier one, and once he jumped well, he gave himself every chance.”
Moreira drew a blank, the Brazilian looking a touch out of sorts in his first meeting back since announcing his shock departure from the Hong Kong ranks at season’s end.
And as Aeroluminance’s trainer Paul O’Sullivan pointed out, “the gap might as well be six wins” given the tiebreaker is most seconds and Purton has 17 more runner-up finishes than Moreira.
“I’m aware of that,” said Purton.
What Purton is also aware of is the ratings of his rides and he hopes the handicapper spares Buoyant Boy a rise in grade, and to a light weight he can’t make, after an easy-looking Class Four win off a mark of 52.
“Looks can be deceiving,” Purton said.
“I snuck up and made ground at a crucial stage, but he really didn’t have to work hard to get there. The winning margin looks impressive but I think he was flattered by the way the race played out.”
Thirteen-time champion jockey Douglas Whyte, who confirmed he would return next season, delivered a double aboard Kiram and Falcon Turbo.
“He rated my horse beautifully,” said Kiram’s trainer David Ferraris.
“He had to get moving right when he did. I’m glad the horse could get another win because he is better than his record indicates. A bit of rain today probably helped him as well.”
Tony Cruz didn’t mind admitting that he had got the race placement wrong with import Brave Legend before last night’s breakthrough over 1,650m.
“I’ve been running him over the wrong distances,” Cruz said with a laugh. “And you know, he might even get further next season. First we will be looking back here and a mile at Sha Tin though.”