Most Hong Kong jockeys would be thrilled with four wins from five meetings but for reigning champion Zac Purton, it’s different terrain to that he has scaled in recent seasons.
The Australian was just shy of averaging two victories a meeting on his way to 168 winners last season and while he has still saluted 20 times from 14 race days this term, he has been short of his prolific best of late.
Purton went winless for the third time this season at Sha Tin on Sunday after just one victory at each of the four meetings prior – slipping 10 behind leader Joao Moreira in the process – but he’s been around long enough to know not to overthink things.
“It’s just the way it goes sometimes, I’m sure it will all start to work itself out sometime soon,” he said. “I haven’t been getting very good rides and I’ve drawn a lot of bad gates – it just seems to be a bit of theme at the moment.”
Purton must again negotiate a tricky barrier aboard Invincible Missile in the Class Three Pyramid Hill Handicap (1,650m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday, but is quietly confident he has the tools to overcome gate 10.
The Chris So Wai-yin-trained gelding makes his debut at the city circuit and will step beyond 1,400m for the first time after two wins and a further five placings from nine starts at Sha Tin.
“I think he’s the right type of horse for Happy Valley. There’s not a lot of him, he seems to have a short sprint at Sha Tin so the shorter straight at Happy Valley might be able to assist him,” Purton said.
“I wasn’t sure he had the speed for a 1,200m race at Happy Valley and the way he battles on over 1,400m, I thought 1,650m was the more suitable distance.
“It’s a shame that we’ve come up with such a bad gate because it’s going to force my hand to do one of two things, either go forward or go back, so I’m just going to have to work that out.
“I was hoping that I could draw a low gate and just save him the first half of the race and that way he could hopefully run a strong race for us, but I’m sure he’s up to it still.”
Also among Purton’s seven-strong book on Wednesday night is Caspar Fownes’ last-start winner Aurora Pegasus and the consistent Chefano.
Purton was aboard when Chefano finished second at the Valley in his first-up run this season and couldn’t be happier with the horse upon it’s return to the city track after a last-start fourth at Sha Tin under Blake Shinn.
“The horse looks terrific, feels terrific in the mornings. He’s going really, really well,” Purton said. “He’s in a good frame of mind.
“I just worry that he may be a little bit of a better horse at Sha Tin than he is at Happy Valley. It seems like the long straight at Sha Tin has assisted him but if they go a good gallop and I can get into it from back in the field, that’s going to help me.”