He doesn’t win out of turn but Zac Purton is optimistic consistent Group One performer Ka Ying Star can secure his first victory of the season in Saturday’s Ap Lei Chau Handicap (1,600m) at Sha Tin.
The four-time champion jockey has been aboard Tony Cruz’s honest six-year-old at each of his past two starts – both at the top level – and thinks the drop back to Class One should be more to his liking.
Even though Ka Ying Star has to lump the top weight of 133 pounds, he is clearly the class runner of the seven-horse field with three Group One placings to his name.
“It is [shallow], but it’s not easy when you carry the top weight in this grade, all the horses can gallop. I’m not going to say it’s an easy race, but it is a suitable race for him,” Purton said. “I think he can carry [the weight], I’m not worried about it.”
After guiding Ka Ying Star to third in the Stewards’ Cup (1,600m) in January – just three-quarters of a lengths behind Golden Sixty – and then fifth in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) last month, Purton believes the key is returning to his best trip.
“On face value he was a touch disappointing last start, but I don’t think 1,400m suits him,” Purton said of the galloper, who has three wins and 12 placings from his 26 Hong Kong starts.
“He has won all his races at a mile and he just seems to relax better at the distance. Because there is a longer run down the back straight and there’s not that pressure early, he gets into a better rhythm.
“In the 1,400m where it’s a bit more competitive early, it just seems to fire him up and then he doesn’t relax as well.
“This distance suits him, he has drawn a nice gate and as long as Kings Shield doesn’t come flying out of the gates and fire him up, hopefully he can get into that rhythm.”
There is a tinge of irony that Purton is now on “team Ka Ying Star”, given the gelding spent most of last season annoying Beauty Generation, the now-retired superstar the Australian is best associated with.
“It is a bit funny like that in Hong Kong,” he quipped.
Speaking of associations, Antoine Hamelin is forming a lethal one with 11-time champion trainer John Size and they will look to keep their good form going with Champion’s Way.
The combination has won four of its past nine starts and the Frenchman jumps aboard the five-year-old for the first time on Saturday.
After winning the Group Three Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,400m) in January, Champion’s Way found things a little hard in two subsequent runs at Group One level but he meets Ka Ying Star nine pounds better at the weights.
It is one of four rides Hamelin has for Size on the card and the jockey is appreciative that Hong Kong’s leading trainer is backing him.
“It is nice to be having this support from Mr Size, I’m hoping we can keep it going and we can have another winner or two on the weekend,” he said.