Kings Shield put both his soul-destroying Group Three Korea Cup (1,800m) loss and his Class Two Kwok Shui Handicap (1,650m) rivals behind him to win the main event at Sha Tin on Wednesday night.
Hong Kong’s top dirt specialist endured the worst two minutes of his career at Seoul, failing to find the front from the inside barrier and finishing 24 lengths behind the winning horse.
Zac Purton replaced Matthew Chadwick aboard Kings Shield for his Hong Kong reappearance at Sha Tin, the well-travelled galloper teaming up with the champion jockey for the first time in 13 starts.
Theirs looked set to be an unlucky reunion as the Kwok Shui Handicap field entered the home straight, with Derek Leung Ka-chun’s mid-race move aboard well-backed favourite Apache Pass relegating Purton and Kings Shield to second place, albeit not by much.
However, Kings Shield kicked back under Purton to do something he had not done since his 12 months in the Newmarket yard of British trainer John Gosden – win a race without making all the running.
With Kings Shield’s current handler, Frankie Lor Fu-chuen, off course after testing positive to Covid-19, it was left to Purton to do the talking.
“It was a good, tough win. I rode him patiently. He did a good job,” said Purton, who has been Kings Shield’s jockey for three of the horse’s five Hong Kong victories despite riding him only four times.
Purton piloted three of Wednesday’s nine winners, but the night’s best stories from the riding ranks were the milestone moments of Jack Wong Ho-nam, who posted his first triumph in 16 months, and Jerry Chau Chun-lok, who registered his 100th career success.
Wong won the first section of the Class Five Chung On Handicap (1,200m) on Happy Fat Cat, while Chau won the second section on Diamond Soars.
“It’s been long time since my last winner,” said a relieved Wong, who had not saluted the judge since Highly Proactive’s Sha Tin success on June 26 last year.
“It’s amazing. A big thank you to Ricky Yiu for supporting me. The horse did a good job. He’s one paced, so I let him go for it,” said a happy Chau.
In the training ranks, Benno Yung Tin-pang and Pierre Ng Pang-chi recorded doubles to lift their season tallies to eight and six, respectively.
Meanwhile, there were no notable omissions among the local entries for December’s Longines Hong Kong International Races, which were announced on Wednesday afternoon and follow the bumper cast of overseas nominations revealed last week.
Golden Sixty and California Spangle remain on a Hong Kong Mile collision course, although Francis Lui Kin-wai has also nominated Golden Sixty for an unlikely tilt at the Hong Kong Cup.
Group One-winning speedsters Wellington, Sky Field and Stronger headline the Hong Kong Sprint entries.
Rising stars Lucky Sweynesse and Cordyceps Six add plenty of spice to the entries, while the likes of Lucky Patch and Courier Wonder are also there.
Another three Group One winners are hedging their bets, with Hong Kong Derby winner Romantic Warrior, two-time Group One champion Russian Emperor and 2021 Champions & Chater Cup victor Panfield all entered for both the Hong Kong Cup and the Hong Kong Vase.
“We are extremely pleased with the full picture of entries for the Longines Hong Kong International Races. Hong Kong’s very best horses – Golden Sixty, Wellington, California Spangle, Romantic Warrior and Russian Emperor – are all nominated, and it sets the scene for a wonderful meeting on December 11,” said Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding.