Paul O’Sullivan didn’t love the fact his in-form speedster Spontaneous was whacked with an eight-point penalty for his win last month but there is a silver lining to come with the hike – the continued services of Zac Purton.
Spontaneous has ploughed through Class Four with three wins after starting the season on a mark of 45 and finds himself in Class Three for the first time for Wednesday night’s Kam Tin River Handicap (1,200m) at Happy Valley.
But while many of Purton’s winners that rise in grade carry a weight too light for the star Australian in their next start, the sizeable penalty given to Spontaneous – and the fact his last win came off a mark of 60 – meant Purton could commit to the galloper in the knowledge he would carry at least 121 pounds.
“We always think it’s too heavy – even if he’d given me six it was going to be too heavy,” O’Sullivan said of the penalty.
“But the eight points gives him enough weight for Zac to stay on – it’s good to have the right jockey on.
“I think everybody has got a pretty good strike rate with Zac and Joao [Moreira] because they seem to be able to get on the horses they want to ride but Zac has certainly got a pretty good strike rate for our stable.”
Purton has ridden more winners for O’Sullivan than any other jockey this season, saluting six times from 25 attempts for the New Zealander at a strike rate of 24 per cent.
Two of those victories have come with Spontaneous, who has made a remarkable comeback after missing over 10 months of racing with a tendon injury to produce three wins and a second from four starts since returning in February.
“He bowed his tendon quite badly and had about 10 months out and he’s come back and fingers crossed he’s holding together well,” O’Sullivan said, adding that he’s confident his charge has more ratings points in hand.
“I think he’ll be OK up in Class Three, he’s been convincing enough in Class Four in his wins to suggest that he can be competitive enough coming down in weight.
“Things like barrier draws are going to become very important from here on in but I think he’ll take the step up OK.
“Most horses get to a rating and then they taper off and he is going to be no different to the rest of them so it just depends how high he can get, he might get to Class Two but he’s certainly done his job this season.”
Spontaneous has drawn barrier four and will actually carry 125 pounds in the race because Joyful Union is the highest-rated runner at 76.
The five-year-old son of Unencumbered has taken to the city circuit with aplomb this season after beginning his career with four unplaced runs at Sha Tin and O’Sullivan says he won’t be meddling with a winning formula for the time being.
“He had four runs at Sha Tin in his first preparation and never went a yard but he might have just been a new horse in Hong Kong,” he said.
“He’s got good gate speed and he gets around the Valley well so in the immediate future that’s where he’s going to be.
“He’s only had four runs this season so he will probably continue on and have another run after this, we’ll just see how he pulls up.”
O’Sullivan also saddles up Shinealot, Faribault, Ever Joy, Sincere Boy and Mehboob at the midweek meeting.