Hang’s Decision was the horse seemingly no one wanted to ride, but champion jockey Zac Purton stepped up to the plate at the last minute and was rewarded – even if it did cost him his right boot.
Trainer Chris So Wai-yin was left searching for a replacement rider after the man he originally booked, Eddy Lai Wai-ming, pulled the plug on his day after the fifth race citing a stomach bug.
So then asked Vincent Ho Chak-yiu if he would take the mount, but the leading local declined, leaving connections scrambling.
“I was in the weigh-out area and they just came to me and said that [connections] had asked if I would ride it and being the nice guy that I am, I thought I would help them with their request,” Purton said.
“Fortunately it worked out well for me.”
Is this the day @zpurton starts to assert in the title race? The champ moves six clear of @KarisTeetan by completing a treble on Hang's Decision in R8. Eddy Lai was booked to ride Chris So's gelding but missed out through stomach cramps. #HKIR #HKracing pic.twitter.com/glG9azhEKp— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 2, 2018
With Purton responding positively in the moment of need, Hang’s Decision also rose to the occasion – even if he proved to be a handful during the race.
“Firstly when he came out he smashed my left foot into the side of the gate, so I’ve got a black toe on my left foot and then at the 800m mark he decided he wanted to take on the fence so he ripped the side of my boot out and he’s taken the skin off the right side of my foot,” the jockey said. “So I’m going home with two sore feet.”
Despite those incidents, Hang’s Decision ($9.6) produced when it mattered, rattling home along the inside to defeat the $3.8 favourite Nuclear Power with Chung Wah Spirit ($7.1) in third. The result must have compounded Lai’s sickness.
While he lost a boot and will be a bit sore, Purton was compensated for his generosity with 10 per cent of the HK$786,600 first prize.
It completed a treble for the leading jockey at the lacklustre meeting, having also guided home Danny Shum Chap-shing’s promising duo of Perfect Match and Happy Tour.
Purton was particularly impressed with the latter’s performance in the first section of the Class Four Middle Handicap (1,200m) on the all-weather track, where he set a new class record of 1:08.14 – beating the previous mark set by Deminer in May 2007.
“It was a good win I thought,” Purton said. “I didn’t appreciate Grand Harbour putting the acid to me around the corner like he did.
“We were rolling along at a nice enough clip and from the half-mile he kept just trying to put the pressure on me and from the 600m he was [niggling] at his horse.
Doubles for @zpurton, trainer Danny Shum and owner Jackie Wong as Happy Tour dominates in R5. The International Sale graduate is backed down to 1.9 and wins in style to continue the trend towards on-pace runners. #HKIR #HKracing pic.twitter.com/qVXCp0HJPR— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 2, 2018
“My horse had to soak all that up and then I kept him rolling into the straight and it was hard for those behind him to run him down.
“I think he’s a progressive horse, he’s lightly raced and he’s big, he’s scopey – there’s upside there.”
Perfect Match made it two wins from three starts in the restricted Class Four Cameron Handicap (1,400m).
Perfect Match waves goodbye to Class 4 with a runaway success in R2 at Sha Tin. Danny Shum's gelding bounds clear from the front under @zpurton and is clearly improving fast. #HKracing #HKIR pic.twitter.com/xX4Xg7E9rd— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 2, 2018
“The field was quite weak, there wasn’t much in it and once he found the front like he did, he was always going to be hard to beat,” he said.
“He did have a bit of pressure applied to him through the mid sections and he did a good job to absorb that and put up the performance he did.”
There was one scary moment during the day when Keith Yeung Ming-lun took a nasty tumble after coming off Startling Power about 150m into the seventh race.
The 30-year-old got back to his feet and walked back to the jockeys’ room, but was stood down from his remaining two rides and was taken to hospital as a precaution. Stewards have adjourned an inquiry into the incident.