Zac Purton started the season hoping the likes of Naboo Attack and Nervous Witness would help him fill a Group One void left by champions Beauty Generation and Exultant but instead it’s veteran Waikuku that has carried him to more top-level success.

After a golden run with superstar pair Beauty Generation and Exultant, last season was the first time in a long time Purton went through a campaign without winning a Group One aboard a Hong Kong-trained horse.

He put that right with victory aboard Waikuku in last month’s Stewards’ Cup and climbs aboard the John Size-trained seven-year-old again in Sunday’s Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m).

“It was nice to get on him, he’s always competitive in these races but with Golden Sixty around you felt like you were always racing for second prize money,” Purton said.

“It was good that he got another Group One on the board and hopefully he can continue on with that. He’s performed well in this race before and this time of year seems to suit him.”

All three of Waikuku’s Group One wins have come in January or February and he faces seven rivals as he chases back-to-back victories in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup.

He enters the race after ending the 16-race winning streak of superstar Golden Sixty in the Stewards’ Cup and looks perfectly placed to add to his big-race tally.

“Unfortunately for him in his career here in Hong Kong he’s run into two of the best horses Hong Kong’s ever seen in Beauty Generation and Golden Sixty,” Purton said.

“It’s always been hard for him but with Golden Sixty going to the Gold Cup, it really leaves the opportunity there for him to take.

“He’s drawn three so from there he should just lob into a nice spot and give himself every chance.

“It’s an interesting race with the sprinters stretching out to 1,400m and the small field can sometimes be a little bit messy but hopefully it’s just a nicely run race and if that’s the case he’ll get his chance again.”

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Those stepping up from 1,200m include Hong Kong Sprint champion Sky Field and another Group One winner in Wellington, while Healthy Happy finished sixth behind Waikuku in the Stewards’ Cup and Ka Ying Star, Mighty Giant, Lucky Express and Californiadeepshot have taken different paths to the contest.

Purton partners More Than This in the afternoon’s other Group One, the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, and the six-year-old returns to 2,000m for the first time since his third behind Golden Sixty in the 2020 Hong Kong Derby.

“To be honest I think everyone is still trying to work him out. He’s a very funny horse,” Purton said of More Than This, who has two Group One placings at a mile but hasn’t won since 2019.

“From what I can see, if you wait until you get into the straight and then you ask him for an effort, he storms home but he hits that flat spot at the top of the straight. So he’s normally getting home a little bit late, but that’s when he’s performed at his best.

“Then you think, because he hits that flat spot you should take off earlier on him but every time you take off earlier on him around the corner he gets into the straight and then hits a wall.

“It’s about finding the balance and maybe going up in distance might be suitable for him. We’ll see, he’s very hard to get right.”