Rising star Jerry Chau Chun-lok collected the biggest victory of his fledgling career as Lucky Patch captured the Group Two BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m), but the celebrations were short-lived with Zac Purton poised to partner the five-year-old in the Group One Hong Kong Sprint next month.
While delighted with the performance of the 21-year-old under pressure – Chau didn’t put a foot wrong – trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai confirmed the four-time champion can partner Lucky Patch at the Hong Kong International Races if he wants to.
“I think that’s Zac’s choice. If he picks my horse, I would appreciate it,” Lui said when asked if Chau would keep the ride.
“Lucky Patch has improved a lot this season. Jerry did a great job and the horse is going very well. He’s a chance in the Hong Kong Sprint.”
The discussions were ultimately all moot with Chau copping a two-meeting suspension and a HK$27,500 fine for causing interference to Super Wealthy near the 200m, the youngster electing to miss the International Jockeys’ Championship and HKIR meeting, leaving Purton in the box-seat.
The Australian guided the son of El Roca to victory in the Group Two Premier Bowl last month but opted to ride the David Hayes-trained Naboo Attack at Sha Tin on Sunday, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Lucky Patch in second.
The result and the differing styles of the two horses has Purton leaning towards Lui’s charge now that he’s proven himself to be a genuine contender.
“I’ll have to have a look at the replay again but I think that’s the way I’m going to go. I just think [Lucky Patch] has got a little bit more tactical versatility,” he said.
“Naboo Attack at the moment is a bit of a one-trick pony, you’ve got to switch him off so he can finish strong. If you give him one indication to go, he grabs the bit. I thought with the speed on in today’s race, that was really his chance to motor home over the top of them.
“He’s run really well but he’s just come up a bit short, so at this stage I’m looking at going Lucky Patch.”
Funnily enough, the inspiration for Chau’s ride – overcoming the outside gate to settle midfield with cover before running over the top of his rivals in the straight – came from Purton’s effort in the Premier Bowl.
“Before the race, you looked at the outside draw and it was going to be a difficult task,” Lui said. “But we looked at how Zac Purton rode him last time and I told Jerry to just do the same thing. Luckily he got the fast pace and he could find a spot in midfield.”
Computer Patch and favourite Courier Wonder ensured there was a genuine pace, giving the backmarkers an opportunity to make their presence felt with Naboo Attack and Sky Field, who were last and second-last in transit respectively, filling the placings.
But all honours were with Lucky Patch – who was crunched in betting to jump at $5.5 – and Chau certainly enjoyed the moment, punching the air as he crossed the line, helping to make up for the disappointment of missing out on the ride in the Premier Bowl.
“It’s my best win in Hong Kong. We were lucky, they went fast early and I had a chance to get in and get cover,” he said.
“It’s very exciting. I’ve won on this horse before but last start Mr Lui gave Zac the horse to ride and he won the race and I was a bit disappointed – I didn’t think I would get the chance to ride him again.
“But luckily Zac chose [Naboo Attack] and Mr Lui gave me the opportunity again. Big thanks to him and the owner. It’s meaningful – I’ll need to have a big celebration.
“I’ve only just finished my apprenticeship and I’m getting some nice opportunities and I’m trying to ride them to the best of my ability.”
Trainer John Size thinks there are things to take out of the event for his two star sprinters – a learning experience for Courier Wonder and fitness for Hot King Prawn.
“It would appear Courier Wonder ran away from the whip, so that didn’t help him, but Joao will know that now and we can rectify that,” the 11-time champion trainer said.
“Hot King Prawn went through his paces nicely. He’s been in very good shape before this race so I would expect he would come out of it very well – it didn’t look like he had a hard run.”
Reigning Chairman’s Sprit Prize champion Wellington finished seventh in his first-up effort and – similar to Hot King Prawn – while he didn’t make much of an impression, he should take benefit from the hit-out.