Making hay while the sun shines is what champions do. Zac Purton did precisely that in the absence of Joao Moreira at Sha Tin on Sunday, the title holder equalling his best start to a Hong Kong season with three winners on the opening day.
Purton steered This Is Charisma, Strive For Glory and Oriental Smoke to Sha Tin successes to capitalise on Moreira’s delayed start to the campaign because of injury.
“It’s obviously a different feeling without Joao out there. I believe he’s back in Hong Kong and we all look forward to seeing him back at the races, but it’s a lot easier for me when he’s not out there, I know that,” said Purton.
“It’s always nice to have a winner on the opening day so to have three is a good start.”
Purton’s treble matched his 2010 and 2012 efforts, in which he booted home three victors to kick off a Hong Kong campaign, and bettered his many first-up doubles, including those that he registered in each of the past four completed seasons.
Purton was at his brilliant best aboard This Is Charisma in the Class Five Mount Parker Handicap (1,600m), threading the eye of the needle aboard the David Hall-trained 24-start maiden to win the first race of the season.
Purton made it back-to-back wins when he piloted Strive For Glory to his all-the-way victory in the Class Five Kowloon Peak Handicap (1,200m) and he teamed up with his Australian compatriot David Hayes to claim the Class Three Lantau Peak Handicap (1,200m) on the back of the well-supported favourite Oriental Smoke.
The only race that Purton sat out was the feature event, the Class One HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup (1,200m), because he could not make the weight to ride the victorious Lucky Sweynesse.
Purton stood aside for Silvestre de Sousa to partner last term’s Champion Griffin but he was impressed with what he saw from the four-year-old and is confident he will regain the ride.
“I’ve already had that conversation, so we’ll be right,” said Purton, who is three from four on Lucky Sweynesse.
“He had that December look about him. He was slow out of the gates, he was wide working early when the tempo was very strong until he was able to get in halfway around the corner but he put some handy horses away pretty comfortably, albeit with no weight on his back.
“The programme’s not great for him. It’s either drop back to the straight 1,000m, which isn’t really suitable, or wait for the 1,200m in about five or six weeks.
Good horse, Lucky Sweynesse! 🤯— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) September 11, 2022
Hong Kong's Champion Griffin (2021/22) bolts in under @SilvDSousa to capture the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive's Cup for trainer Manfred Man. 🔥🔥#SeasonOpener | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/tAshB27NZb
“Manfred’s the trainer. He’ll work out what to do, but I think waiting for the 1,200m might be the better option.
“He’s very impressive and lightly raced. He looks like he could be shaping up as one of our next handy sprinters.”
Purton was not the only jockey to celebrate multiple Sha Tin wins. Karis Teetan was successful aboard Amazing Victory in the Class Four Yi Tung Shan Handicap (1,200m) and Gallant Crown in the Class Three Sunset Peak Handicap (1,400m).