The absorbing battle for the jockeys’ championship is about the politics of trainer support as much as anything else, but it is not all about the big guns, and few have been as effective at supporting Zac Purton than Lamarosa’s trainer Paul O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan doesn’t have the ammunition of some of the top stables but the popular Kiwi trainer has provided plenty of winners in the latter part of Purton’s push for a second title and Lamarosa looks a key runner at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Purton and O’Sullivan have been a formidable combination for many years but in the past six weeks their strike rate together has been deadly.
O’Sullivan has provided 12 winners from 46 runners at a strike rate of 26.1 per cent but in the second half of the year that mark has taken a big jump.
Since December 20, the pair has 10 wins at 38.4 per cent and seven wins at 43.7 per cent since April 25.
O’Sullivan has never been a bulk supplier of winners for Purton’s rival Joao Moreira, but they have shared a high strike rate, and it is notable that the Magic Man has had just one ride for the stable since April 21.
Lamarosa dropped into Class Four for the first time last start and, after a freshen-up, comes back in distance with a better draw and a key gear change for the Class Four Kings Falcon Handicap (1,000m).
The five-year-old last ran on May 23 and was fourth over 1,200m, but if it wasn’t for an awkward draw and some wayward antics late, the gelding would have finished at least closer.
Lamarosa failed to load at the trials on June 12 but returned two weeks later with blinkers back on for the first time in more than six months.
This time, Lamarosa did everything right in a sharp display over 1,200m and O’Sullivan has chosen to bring the son of Postponed back to the shortest trip.
Lamarosa was forced to work hard through the first two thirds of the race from barrier eight over 1,200m last time out, finally finding a spot outside the lead as the field settled to round the final turn.
The leading sectionals weren’t breakneck but enough for those nestled just in behind the pace to gain an advantage.
If it wasn’t for Lamarosa’s strange antics in the closing stages, there’s no doubt he would have finished closer or even challenged to win.
Lamarosa tilted in his head to one side, and whether it was to take a bite out of rival Good Companion or just lack of focus, the blinkers should result in a more genuine performance.
It will be hard to top Sunday’s slugfest at Sha Tin between Purton and Moreira for pure sporting theatre but the Valley’s eight-race card should provide its fair share of drama.
Sunday’s four-all result leaves Purton three in front of Moreira (133-130) with 19 races in the season remaining.
Both riders have a strong book of rides but there is no doubt the barrier draws have been more kind to Purton with the Australian coming up with a string of inside gates.
This time Lamarosa gets gate two, which means he should be able to slot in just forward of midfield and get every chance.
Horses like Winfull Patrol (Matthew Poon Ming-fai), Flying Monkey (Derek Leung Ka-chun) and Mr Right (Neil Callan) should ensure there is a genuine tempo.
With the rail in the A position, Purton’s rides drew barriers one, two, two, three, two, six and four.