Ugly Warrior returns to the surface where he has won five times from seven attempts and gets another boost at Sha Tin on Easter Monday, with champion jockey Zac Purton climbing aboard for the first time since they combined to win in April last year.
After two moderate performances on the Sha Tin turf, Ugly Warrior is back on familiar footing in the Class Two Peacock Handicap (1,200m) on the all-weather track and Purton is hoping the four-year-old gets away cleanly from the inside alley.
“He’s a little bit hit and miss at the start, he can be a little bit tardy away at times so he is going to need to begin well and if he does he’ll be in the right spot and he’ll get his chance,” Purton said.
The Australian jockey was in the saddle when the Me Tsui Yu-sak-trained Ugly Warrior finished midfield in a trial a couple of weeks ago and he hopes the gelding can find another gear or two come race day.
“His trial recently was probably not as good as I was hoping,” Purton said. “Me did ask just to give him a soft trial without asking him to do too much but I thought in the straight when I came through he’d show a little bit more enthusiasm and want to try and finish it off, but the last 200m he was a little bit plain.
“That’s a little bit of a concern but he’s moving well and he felt good so hopefully he has just relaxed a little bit more as he’s got older.”
Among Ugly Warrior’s opponents is the John Size-trained Gunnison, who has placed at his last six outings including a win over this course and distance.
Purton also rides the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Perfect Match on Monday, with the 36-year-old looking to extract a fourth win from the three-year-old in its debut season.
He was aboard for one of the gelding’s three consecutive wins late last year and also when Perfect Match finished a narrow second to King Opie at his last start in January.
“He does [have another win in him],” Purton said. “He’s not the most robust horse, he did what he did on pure ability really and then Danny was able to back off him and just give him a little bit of time.
“He’s had a couple of internal issues so Danny has just taken his time with him and I think he is ready to go to the races now. His last trial was pretty nice and his trackwork since has been good.
“He obviously hasn’t drawn well but if he can find a nice spot up there with the leaders he’d be a decent chance,” Purton added of his charge, who jumps from barrier 14.
Also among Purton’s full book of 10 rides is Utopia Life, who was denied a win by the stewards last time out after crossing the line first and now runs into powerful youngster Voyage Warrior, who was a dominant winner on debut four weeks ago.
“Voyage Warrior looks pretty special, his win last time was as good as you’ll see so he looks as if he will be very hard to beat,” Purton said.
“The positive is that I’m drawn next to him and hopefully I can just tag him and if for whatever reason he’s off his game a little bit I’ll be ready to pounce.”