At almost 1,400 pounds, Naboo Attack is the biggest horse in Hong Kong but jockey Zac Purton is astounded at his agility.
David Hayes’ rising star has crushed his rivals in his two starts in this jurisdiction and he is almost graceful the way he races – despite his size.
That’s what makes him stand out to the four-time champion jockey, who has ridden him on a handful of occasions at trackwork but will jump aboard on race day for the first time in Sunday’s Class Two Cheung Hong Handicap (1,200m).
“He’s an impressive horse to ride. He’s obviously really big but he floats across the ground like he’s a butterfly,” he said. “It’s amazing how light he is on his feet.”
Naboo Attack was outstanding when winning the Class One Chief Executive’s Cup on opening day and while this is technically a drop in class, Sunday’s assignment looks his toughest test to date.
The five-year-old will carry 133 pounds and give weight to all his rivals, which include Caspar Fownes’ boom four-year-old Killer Bee, consistent Group performer Fat Turtle and solid performers like Winner Method, Trillion Win and California Rad.
Purton is looking forward to the challenge – particularly to see how Naboo Attack will measure up against Killer Bee.
“It does excite me. You always want to test yourself against the best opposition around if you think you’re on an upwards trajectory so I’ve got no reservations about the runners he’s up against, it’s just a matter of what run I can get in the race,” he said.
“I know he’s carried light weights at both his starts and he’s drawn reasonable gates and they’ve gone really fast and he was on the A and B course so everything was there to suit him but he’s done the job really nicely.
“It’s going to be a tougher race for him this time – he has to carry the top weight, he’s drawn a little bit awkward and we’re on the C+3 so it’s a much tighter track for him, so there’s the potential there for the race to be run a bit differently. But he’s a horse on the way up, he hasn’t put a foot wrong and he’s going to run well again.”
Purton will join forces with Fownes in the Group Three Celebration Cup (1,400m), jumping aboard veteran Southern Legend.
The nine-year-old, who won the Group One Champions Mile last year, is probably the stable’s second seed behind reigning Hong Kong Derby champion Ski Darci, given the handicap conditions and the fact he’s got bigger targets to come.
“He’s probably one of the most consistent horses we have here, especially at the level he’s been racing at. He seems to get a cheque every time he goes around,” Purton said.
“Caspar said he put on more weight than he would’ve liked in the off-season and he’s been racing against time a little bit to get him ready for this race. His trial was OK but I would’ve liked him to have done a little bit more, so that’s a concern coming into this race first-up with a big weight against these horses. We’ll just see how he goes on the day.”
Purton is also looking to extend the winning streak of Danny Shum Chap-shing’s promising four-year-old Packing Victory, who steps out in the Class Three Fu Tai Handicap (1,200m).
He shapes like a horse who will improve when he stretches out over further but the Australian thinks it’s the right decision to stick at six furlongs for now.
“It obviously looks like he wants further – and he will run over further in time – but because he’s young and only had the one run this season and goes up to Class Three, it’s probably not the time to go to 1,400m,” Purton said.
“He’s been in two races now where he’s been on the outside and had plenty of galloping room – he’s a horse that has a giant reach on him and he’s appreciated being in that position.
“But drawn inside a little bit [barrier two], I probably don’t want to get bottled up on him, I want to let him use his action and his rhythm and hope that he can continue on with it.”