Zac Purton says Exultant can stake his claim for Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year with victory in Sunday’s Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m).
The star stayer will join the likes of Beat The Clock, Beauty Generation and Golden Sixty as leading contenders for the award should he win as expected.
In what is an even year with no stand-out performer, Purton believes a case can be made for the six-year-old should he notch his second Group One of the season.
“It is going to be a tough call for the club this year because Beat The Clock has done very well in every race he has been in, Golden Sixty has obviously had a great season, Beauty Generation has been solid all the way through and so has Exultant,” Purton said.
“It is one of those years where the club is going to have to give plenty of thought as to who they’re going to give it to because there is no stand-out.”
Exultant is yet to miss a placing this season and has won the Group Two Jockey Club Cup (2,000m), the Group Three Centenary Vase (1,800m) and the Group One QE II Cup (2,000m).
Beat The Clock seemed to have a mortgage on the prestigious award after his second Group One victory of the term in the Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m) in January but had his colours lowered for the first time in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) a month later and has not returned to the races since.
Golden Sixty also looked set to win after sweeping the four-year-old series earlier this year but Purton believes the decision by connections to not race on Champions Day could hurt their chances.
“The form out of the four-year-old series [is questionable] – the horses that ran second and third in the Classic Cup and the Derby didn’t prove themselves against the Group One performers,” said Purton, referring to More Than This’ fifth placing in the Champions Mile and Playa Del Puente’s fourth in the QE II Cup.
“If Golden Sixty was to race in the QE II or Champions Mile and proved himself, well of course it would be fair to give it to him but in the end he only raced against four-year-olds in restricted grade apart from when he was coming through the classes.
“He didn’t race against our Group One horses so it leaves the door open by them not running on Champions Day.”
Purton admits Sunday’s Champions & Chater Cup “isn’t the strongest edition” with just seven runners and a 36-point ratings gap between Exultant and Savvy Nine, but said a smaller field can lead to an unexpected tempo.
“You don’t know if it’s going to be genuine really,” he said. “Time Warp is the type of horse that likes to get into his own rhythm and roll along so I don’t know if they want to try and restrain him or let him be happy.
“I suppose however they want to ride him will dictate how the race will be run.”
Exultant will also face 2019 Derby winner Furore along with Eagle Way, Chefano, Helene Charisma and Savvy Nine.
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