Winner’s Way was runner-up in the Group Three Premier Cup 12 months ago but the Tony Cruz-trained sprinter can go one better and cap a consistent season with another black-type win in the race on Sunday at Sha Tin.
Part of a stellar four-year-old crop that included Rapper Dragon, Pakistan Star and Beauty Generation, Winner’s Way hasn’t hit the heights of his classmates yet, but recent performances indicate he could become a big race player.
Winner’s Way (Zac Purton) gets a golden opportunity to confirm his standing with back-to-back Group Three victories when he faces a thin field containing some out-of-sorts opposition.
In last year’s Premier Cup, the gelding started odds-on and was beaten by Thewizardofoz, a horse who, at his best, is rated as one of the elite in Hong Kong racing.
In fact, Thewizardofoz started this season as the equal top-rated horse in town courtesy of that victory but hasn’t won since.
Thewizardofoz (Joao Moreira) may just have another show stopping run in him – trying to pick which day that will happen is the trick though and good luck to anyone guessing which “wizard” will show up here.
In the six-year-old’s favour is an exceptional course and distance record of three wins, a second and third from five starts and an encouraging lead-up trial.
Lucky Bubbles (Brett Prebble) is another veteran who has lost his lustre this term and a step up to 1,400m doesn’t seem all that suitable for the former top-ranked sprinter.
Consistency is an issue these days for the injury-prone Dundonnell (Chad Schofield) as well, leaving the other threats to come from the bottom of the weights.
Winner’s Way’s stablemate California Whip (Karis Teetan) could be the one; the American-bred sprinter has hit form of late, winning two of his past three including a course and distance triumph last time out.
Even though Winner’s Way jumps five points for his stylish last start win in the Group Three Sha Tin Vase, and carries 10 more pounds than in last year’s race, he has the necessary upside to beat the handicapper again.
Barrier one is a huge bonus in a race that looms as a tactical battle of wits, Purton is riding as well as any jockey in the history of Hong Kong racing right now, and he is on a horse who can be placed close to the speed, or even lead, if necessary.
Quieter tactics have worked well for Purton lately though and there are a few rivals that usually race prominently like California Whip, Magic Legend and Dundonnell.
It may turn into a game of cat and mouse to see who leads but Purton will have a prime position from the rail to size the situation up early.