Zac Purton admits the loss of Classique Legend hurts but the four-time champion jockey is doing his best to move forward and focus on stablemate Sky Field in Monday’s Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m).
Purton was aboard Caspar Fownes’ superstar at trackwork on Wednesday morning when he bled, earning a three-month ban before connections made the decision to send him back Australia to continue his career.
It was a tough pill to swallow for the 38-year-old, who hasn’t had a lasting relationship with a stand-out sprinter since Aerovelocity in the middle of the last decade, and was hoping to form a strong partnership with the Everest champion.
“It was heartbreaking when he had his setback and when it was announced he was going back to Australia,” Purton said. “He was giving me a special feel. I could clearly tell why he’d been as successful as he had.
“With our sprinting ranks being as weak as they are at the moment, it was exciting knowing I was going to be riding him going forward and then to have that happen, it was heartbreaking.
“Unfortunately it’s happened, there’s nothing I can do about it, so I just have to look forward to riding Sky Field, who has shown he’s got tremendous ability as well.”
Sky Field is a good fallback option with the four-year-old likely to start second favourite behind Richard Gibson’s boom sprinter Wellington.
The son of Deep Field has won three races this campaign – including a Class One at Happy Valley two runs back – before finishing third to Wellington and Computer Patch last start.
“It’s just a matter of getting him to relax. When he switches off and relaxes, he’s a very good horse. We’ll just hope there is going to be a little bit of speed in the race and he can sit out the back and come home strong,” Purton said.
“I think it’s an interesting race because both Wellington and myself have drawn out, it gives the other runners a bit of a chance. Computer Patch was very good last time, Voyage Warrior is good on his day when he gets things right.
“It’s certainly a race that has a number of chances because of the barriers and the way the race will be run.
“We all know how good Wellington is and going forward, he looks like the one that could have it all before him. Sky Field is probably just a touch behind him at the moment but he’s yet to fulfil his potential either.”
While Purton joins forces with Sky Field for the first time, he reunites with an old favourite in Time Warp in the Class One The Peak Handicap (2,000m).
The Australian was aboard Tony Cruz’s honest front-runner for two Group One wins back in 2017-18 and is back on deck for the first time in more than two years.
“It’s been a while and he gets in with a nice weight [122 pounds] actually. He’s obviously fit and well, he should be able to dictate the race out in front and he’ll get his chance,” said Purton, who is coming off a four-timer at Sha Tin midweek.
“As we know, he’s the type of horse who can pop out of the blue every now and again and hopefully he can do that.”
Purton sticks with the Cruz-trained Ka Ying Star in the day’s other feature, the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy (1,600m).
He guided the six-year-old to victory last time out but now has to take on a couple of Group One winners in Waikuku and Southern Legend.
“He’s a funny horse. He just needs to get it right. If he gets out of rhythm early in the race, he just doesn’t perform. It’s only a small field but it’s a fairly even race,” Purton said.
“If he produces what he did last time, he’s some hope. He would’ve taken a bit of confidence out of that and hopefully he’s up for the fight again.”