The absence of international raiders due to the Covid-19 crisis will not take the shine off FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin on Sunday, according to star jockey Zac Purton.
Purton is poised to jump favourite in all three Group One races but is adamant he will not view any big-race success in a lesser light because of the lack of overseas competition.
“Not at all,” the Australian said. “They’re still big races and there is still a lot to race for.
“Whether they were full fields with horses from all over the globe or just local horses, that’s not my concern. My concern is winning the races.
“It boosts my confidence and gives me a better chance to be able to win the races, which is what it’s about.”
After seven Group One winners last season, Purton has been overshadowed by arch-rival Joao Moreira at the top level this term, with the Brazilian outdoing Purton five to one through eight of the 12 major races.
Purton’s only Group One came aboard Beauty Generation in February’s Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup, however the 37-year-old says it’s not on his mind heading into the weekend.
“You’re not going to have outstanding seasons every season, that’s just the way it goes,” he said. “My horses have been consistent, I think I’ve placed in all of the [Group Ones], I’ve just come up against better horses on the day that are drawn better.
“With just a little bit more luck, I could easily have been sitting here with six Group One winners myself.”
He could realistically have four by week’s end, with overseas fixed-odds bookmakers installing him a firm favourite in the QE II Cup (2,000m) with Exultant and the Champions Mile with Beauty Generation, while Aethero is just edging out Hot King Prawn as top pick in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200m).
“I’m happy enough with my rides,” Purton said. “Obviously Exultant has just been a little bit more one-paced of late, which is a bit of a concern but there’s nothing wrong with him.
“It’s nice to see Beauty Generation back doing what he does. Aethero had a bit of a hiccup but hopefully we’ve got him back on track now as well.”
Talk has been swirling about the future of dual Horse of the Year Beauty Generation, with connections weighing up whether to race on with the seven-year-old.
Whatever the decision, Purton just hopes he can give owners the Kwok family the option of going out on a high should they decide the Champions Mile is their superstar’s last appearance.
“They haven’t made up their mind yet and they won’t do that before the race, I know that,” Purton said. “If it did happen to be his last race and he was able to go out a winner, for me it would be the perfect send-off for him.
“Like they have said, it’s very hard to get a horse like him at his level and they don’t just want to walk away from that if they still have more ambitions.”