Zac Purton continued his red-hot form as Lucky Patch flashed his Hong Kong Sprint credentials with an impressive win in a Premier Bowl that provided more questions than answers.
The tough effort of Francis Lui Kin-wai’s five-year-old was clearly the highlight – he keeps marching up the ratings and has turned into a legitimate top-liner – but neither of the favourites in Courier Wonder or Naboo Attack fired and were some combination of unlucky and disappointing.
Compounding that is the fact top-weight Sky Field dropped out the Group Two pretty quickly, meaning punters are none the wiser as we project forward to the international meeting.
But there is no doubt that Lucky Patch will be there on December 12, showing his class by defying the outside barrier and a ground-covering trip.
The four-time champion jockey settled three-wide in midfield before making his run down the middle of the straight – the best place to be on the day – to beat home Super Wealthy and Stronger.
“It always looked hard from the barrier, the way the race was going to be run with the speed in it,” said Purton, who had a quartet on the day with Cheerful Days, Gracylove and My Sugar also saluting.
“I couldn’t see myself getting in anywhere but we rode to try and get in somewhere. If the cards fell our way, we would be lucky.
“To be honest, we were caught wide with no cover for the most part of it. It took me a long time to be able to get in and get a little bit of cover and then he travelled into it strongly and let down nicely.
“When he got to the front, he idled a little bit – so you can take nothing away from that performance.”
Lui was hoping Lucky Patch could progress from his four-year-old season – he won three of his 11 starts, including the Class One Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy in July – and he’s done it step-by-step after a second in the Class One Chief Executive’s Cup on opening day and a third in the Group Three National Day Cup down the Sha Tin straight.
“I’m not surprised because last season all the time he had bad draws and he finished close and then the race he won he had a good draw and he won by two and a quarter lengths,” said Lui, sporting a sharp Golden Sixty-inspired number around his neck for “gentleman’s bow tie race day”. “He’s been improving. He can enter the Sprint.”
John Size was pragmatic when assessing the run of $2.3 favourite Courier Wonder, whose winning streak ended at five as he finished fifth, beaten three and a quarter lengths.
“I think he’s OK. He was in pretty good shape going into the race so he should come out of it OK,” the 11-time champion trainer said. “He was held up in the straight, so I think he’s got an excuse and I don’t think there’s any damage.”
David Hayes had mixed feelings about the race, pleased with Super Wealthy’s performance but prepared to forgive Naboo Attack, who didn’t run on and was ninth at $3.2.
“[Super Wealthy] was really, really good. He’s stood up in elite company three times in a row. He’ll probably run in the Jockey Club Sprint [on November 21],” Hayes said.
“Alexis [Badel] basically got that big horse wrong – if he jumps slowly, you have to let him gather. If you dig in, he over-races and gets in trouble. You just sit on him and make one run and he explodes. I’d be saying just forgive the run – a total forgive. He’ll probably run in the same race [as Super Wealthy]. They need the points [to get into the Hong Kong Sprint].”
While Lucky Patch’s win was the high point on a brilliant day for Purton, he wasn’t prepared to commit to the son of El Roca going forward, perhaps reiterating the uncertainty about how to assess the results.
“We’ll let the dust settle,” he said. “If I ride him in the Sprint, hopefully he’s good enough to win it.”
Purton was the jockey to pick up the track bias the quickest – the rail was not the place to be – and his four-timer moves him to 21 winners for the season, eight in front of arch-rival Joao Moreira, who endured a tough afternoon at the office after riding four favourites and going winless.
“It’s been a good day. I came here with some pretty bad barriers and I thought it was going to be tough, but the way the track has played, I’ve been a bit lucky,” Purton said. “I’ve been able to get into the right spots on them and they’ve delivered.”