It was a night of milestones at Happy Valley on Wednesday as Michael Chang Chun-wai notched his 300th Hong Kong winner and Zac Purton collected his 100th victory of the season.
The two operate at different ends of the Hong Kong racing spectrum – Chang sits at the bottom of the trainers’ table while Purton has won the past three jockeys’ championships – but they achieved their respective feats just 30 minutes apart.
Chang kicked things off with Family Folks in the first section of the Class Four Conduit Handicap (1,200m), with Antoine Hamelin giving him a perfect ride to give the trainer just his sixth winner of the campaign.
Purton, who had already tasted success in the opening race with Red Majesty, combined with David Hayes again to lift Donc Je Suis home in the Class Four Kotewall Handicap (2,200m).
It was a much-needed victory for Chang, who is starting to pick off a few positive results after a brutal start to the season which saw him salute just once in the first 37 meetings.
While pleased to reach the milestone, the 59-year-old was happier to reward Family Folks’ owner for sticking by him.
“It was going to come one day,” Chang said of the reaching 300 winners.
“I’m very happy to win with this horse for the owner, who has supported me since I started training 15 years ago. Very loyal.”
Given his low tally, Chang is on the verge of recording his first strike for failing to meet the performance benchmark of 16 winners in a season. Like in baseball, if you get three strikes, you’re out.
Despite the fact he needs 10 winners from the final 21 meetings, Chang remains optimistic he can rally late.
“I think I still have a chance to get to 16, I’ve got a few good ones coming up. I’m not going to panic, just do the best I can,” said Chang, who was the first Hong Kong-based trainer to win a race in North America when Rich Tapestry claimed the Group One Santa Anita Sprint Championship in 2014.
“Honestly, I don’t have much of an excuse [for the poor season]. I train a lot of slow horses.
“I’ve got some young horses – around eight horses coming next season. You have to be very careful picking the horses that come to Hong Kong – it’s very competitive.”
For Purton, recording 100 winners in a season has become standard – which is crazy in itself because just three people have done it in Hong Kong before, with Douglas Whyte and Joao Moreira being the others.
This is the sixth time the Australian has reached the mark – he did it first in 2013-14 and in each of the past five seasons – and is a goal he always sets himself.
“It’s the mark I look to hit every season,” Purton said. “If you get to there, it paints a picture for itself, doesn’t it? It means you’ve had a fairly decent season.”
The double means the 38-year-old is now 15 winners behind Moreira in the race for the title but he isn’t getting too excited about hunting down his rival just yet.
“I’ve got a long way to go, I’m running out of meetings,” he said.
Zac Purton on the hamstring injury and ‘restructure’ that led to his quietest start to a season in years
Hayes, the man Purton delivered a double for, was full of praise for his compatriot.
“Zac is just one of the classiest riders you’ll ever see. He’s just world-class,” he said. “He’s proving that year after year. He makes quick decisions and that’s why he rides so many winners.”
Derek Leung Ka-chun was the only other jockey to go home with multiple winners, continuing his terrific season by kicking home David Hall’s Swot Troopers Wind and Hero Star for Manfred Man Ka-leung.