The outside rail for Sha Tin sprint races may no longer be the holy ground it once was with jockeys saying they would prefer to put their mounts in “comfortable positions” rather than clamber for the widest going.
While only early in the season, only one 1,000m Sha Tin winner has come up the outside rail to win, with three winners preferring the middle of the track to make their runs.
The theory will be put to the test on Monday with two races, including the Group Three National Day Cup, racing up the straight.
Champion jockey Zac Purton, who will ride top sprinter Ivictory for trainer John Size, said ever since the implementation of the “false” outside rail for the 2016-17 season, straight racing has become much more “fair” for all barriers.
“In years gone by the outside rail was red hot so they implemented the false rail on the outside fence because there was basically only two horses that had a chance – the one on the outside fence and the one next to it,” he said.
“The 1,000m races are pretty uncomplicated, you just want to let them begin and show their natural speed and take it as it comes, there is no use overthinking it.”
Purton said results early in the season could also be skewed by having horses not quite race ready.
“Some horses are just fitter than others so sometimes, that can be a little bit misleading but [the false rail] has made it more even,” he said.
Fellow jockey Karis Teetan, who will ride promising four-year-old Hot King Prawn in the same race, said there was a tendency to shift towards the outside rail more in search of “company” rather than superior ground.
“The straight is mostly even. The outside is just because the rail is there and the horses get more comfortable, there are a few jocks that go there,” he said.
“It’s more how comfortable they get, when they are in the middle to inside they feel like they are alone.
“But towards the outside with a few horses on the rail they feel more comfortable.”
When pressed on Ivictory’s chances in the Group Three race, Purton remained coy, saying he was yet to feel if the horse had matured from last season.
The Australian was also wary of the 133-pound top weight the five-year-old son of Mossman would be forced to carry after taking all before him last season, including the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200m).
“He’s been trialling nicely, not flash, but he has been going through the motions and I am sure he will come on from the run,” he said.
“Obviously he is not going to be fully wound up for this race, he’s got to carry the top weight and I don’t know if the straight is his preferred racing style either.”
While Purton appeared happy to have the ride aboard Ivictory, he spoke highly of fellow winning chance Hot King Prawn, having ridden him for every start of his career previously.
“Hot King Prawn is a very effective horse up the straight, the light weight he has to carry compared to the heavy weight I have to carry is obviously a concern but we will go out there and see how we go,” he said.
“One has done it and the other is yet to do it so we will see where they end up at the end of the season.”
Purton also comes off Winner’s Way after a flashy victory on the gelding during the season opening Class One Chief Executive’s Cup (1,200m).