The stars have aligned for Zac Purton, with the reigning champion jockey snaring the ride on boom youngster Voyage Warrior in the absence of the suspended Karis Teetan.
It is no secret Purton has been eyeing the ride on Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s lightning-quick three-year-old for some time and, as is so often the case, the prolific Australian has got his way.
“He’s always been asking for the ride and as soon as he found out Karis got suspended and I was going to run him on June 23, he said ‘who is going to ride him?’,” Yiu said. “After I spoke to the owner, we agreed to put him on. It was an easy decision, he’s a winning jockey.”
Teetan has been in the saddle for Voyage Warrior’s three career starts, which include two wins and a recent second behind Thanks Forever – who was ridden by Purton – but if the sprinter is as good as many predict, the Mauritian may have sat on him for the last time.
The gelding turned heads when winning on debut and had Yiu comparing him to his former star Sacred Kingdom after his second win, but the bubble burst last time out at the hands of the John Moore-trained Thanks Forever.
Yiu isn’t too worried, however, and is quick to forgive Voyage Warrior’s performance.
“There was a huge weight difference with the winner and there was different track conditions from when he performed well, that’s why he came second,” Yiu said of the horse’s run on a good-to-yielding track, where he gave Thanks Forever 13 pounds.
There is no Thanks Forever to contend with in Sunday’s Ma On Shan Handicap (1,000m) and Yiu is confident this will be Voyage Warrior’s last start in Class Three.
“He is a pure athlete, he’s a natural. I don’t find any problems for him in Class Three, even carrying top weight,” Yiu said.
“I’ve had a look at the field, it’s not particularly strong and we have a winning machine on his back so he’ll do well again.”
Perhaps the strongest of Voyage Warrior’s opponents is another horse working his way up the ratings in the Tony Cruz-trained Hong Kong Bet, who has produced a win and a second in his last two starts.
He is another horse that has been ridden by Teetan, with Aldo Domeyer stepping up to take the ride from barrier five.
Also in the race are the consistent Look Eras and the Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained Goko, who has won twice at the course and distance this season.
Voyage Warrior, who has drawn barrier eight, will be having his last start for the term before Yiu puts him away to allow him to furnish into the Group One contender he hopes he can be.
“It will be [the last time we see him for the season],” Yiu said. “He’s only three and he would have had four starts.
“Looking at him, I think he still has a bit of improvement. He still has developing to do in the off-season so we will give him some time.”