Champion jockey Zac Purton is 12 victories off matching Joao Moreira’s history-making 170-win season so he needs everything to go right in the last 31 races if he is to break it.
The Australian takes a full book of rides into Sunday’s 11-race card and is hoping his long and successful association with the Kwok family can bring him one win closer.
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Beauty Spark returns for his second start in the Class Three Members’ Care @HKJC 1,400m Handicap after disappointing on debut.
The three-year-old was a stand-out trial runner before his debut ninth last month, but steps up in distance on Sunday as Purton looks to put his charge in a more favourable position.
“That first run was in behind horses … he wasn’t comfortable being in there at all so hopefully up in distance we can get forward on him and get him where he is going to be comfortable,” he said.
“Let’s hope that he can bounce back because all of his trials have been nice.”
The Australian had a unblemished two-from-two record before being sold to Hong Kong and looked a strong chance to continue that record after being sent out $4.4 in betting, but was overawed by the occasion.
Since then, Beauty Spark has trialled strongly again under Purton, giving hope he can make up for his debut effort.
“He is only a young horse with not many starts so it can be expected sometimes but I was really disappointed with the way he handled himself last time so he needs to bounce back,” Purton said.
“It’s a very good gate [two], if he can begin well and be right up there, I think that’s going to be the right spot for him.”
Purton will also ride Seven Heavens for trainer Caspar Fownes in the Class Three Members Cup Handicap (1,000m).
The five-year-old is dropping in grade and returns to his favoured 1,000m straight track course as he looks to break his 16-start maiden status in Hong Kong.
“I mentioned to Caspar a long time ago that I thought straight racing was probably going to be a nice track and distance for him, he has probably run his best race at it, he gets the drop in grade now,” Purton said.
“The tempo of this distance suits him, he doesn’t have to think too much, he just runs in a straight line so it’s a matter of getting him there at the right time.
“We are going to have the right horse [Classic Unicorn] to chase down anyway so he is going to know what his job is going to be.”
Boasting a phenomenal 40 per cent strike rate with trainer John Moore this season, the pair will combine just twice on Sunday as Moore attempts to reel in rival John Size for the trainers’ championship.
Classic Unicorn impresses on debut... and that gives @zpurton the record for most prize money earned in a single Hong Kong season with a running total of $207,714,765. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/WUjuwE4UOg— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) June 2, 2019
With Purton sewing up the jockeys’ title months ago, he said he had enjoyed the theatre of the trainers’ championship this season.
“It’s good, I always say competition is good, that is what people are interested in,” he said. “There is a lot of talk about it so let’s hope it goes down to the last day.”