Zac Purton ended a rare quiet spell with a fantastic treble at Sha Tin that was spearheaded by Beauty Joy in the Group Three Lion Rock Trophy (1,600m).
Heading into the meeting, Purton had ridden just three winners from his past 59 rides and had fallen eight behind Joao Moreira in the jockeys’ championship, but he will have headed home happy after bringing up his three-timer in the most valuable race on the card.
Beauty Joy also proved to be Purton’s easiest winner of the afternoon despite some eyebrow-raising moments as Tony Cruz’s galloper looked far from a sure thing in the run.
The five-year-old was not the quickest away from his good draw in stall two and was keen early as he raced in midfield behind the early pacesetter Happy Healthy.
As the field bunched approaching the home turn, Purton’s mount threw his head around on more than one occasion – perhaps worrying punters who had backed him into $1.6 favourite – but he showed a willing attitude and a sparkling turn of foot to beat Cheerful Days by an eased-down two lengths.
Purton admitted that Beauty Joy proved difficult to ride.
“It’s come out of nowhere,” Purton said. “He was a really nice horse to ride and then he wanted to start playing up in the gates a little bit and he begun a bit ordinary a couple of times and then he had a bit of time off. He came back and now he’s doing this stuff.
“He’s obviously a little bit tricky, he just doesn’t like it when they back the pace off at the moment. He’s done this three times in a row now, so we’ve got to correct it as he’s getting up in the ratings and it will get tougher.
“His performance was good, he’s obviously a talented horse. His overall record in Hong Kong is very good and he’s still got a little bit left there. He’s a handy horse.”
The five-year-old has now won four of his six races this season and Cruz was impressed with his turn of foot on this first attempt at Group level.
“Good horses can relax, they can change gears and they can quicken,” Cruz said. “He’s the type of horse who can do that. He won a Group Three race today and I think he can be a Group Two horse.”
Cruz has his eye on a race on the final day of the Hong Kong season for Beauty Joy, depending on the handicapper’s reaction to this win.
“It will depend on what his rating is but there’s [the Class One Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy (1,600m)] on the last day and there’s a good chance he will run in that,” Cruz said.
“He could get 1,800m but I’d rather the pace is on. Over 1,800m I don’t think there will be pace on, so I’m going to stick to a mile.”
Just half an hour before Beauty Joy’s success, Purton just edged out his title rival when Phoenix Light got the best of the Moreira-ridden Beauty Tycoon in a head-bobbing finish to the Class Four Sha Tin Heights Handicap (1,200m).
It appeared as if the Magic Man was going to add to an earlier victory on Romantic Combo in the Class Three Piper’s Hill Handicap (1,800m) as he kicked Beauty Tycoon clear in the home straight but Purton got his mount rolling down the outside to win by a nose.
The Australian rider started the day on a high when winning the Class Four Tate’s Cairn Handicap (1,650m) on Handsome Twelve, who was winning his first race in Hong Kong at the eighth attempt.