Only Manfred Man Ka-leung has teamed up with reigning champion jockey Zac Purton more times without tasting success this season than Kiwi trainer Jamie Richards.
Richards and Purton have combined six times for a best result of fourth, to go with four double-figure finishes, but those numbers could improve at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
“We’ve been trying, but we’ve been plagued by bad barriers and bad luck. Hopefully, the tide will turn,” Richards said.
Purton climbs aboard three of Richards’ four runners at the midweek meeting, with the Kiwi handler – who is in his first season in Hong Kong – engaging the Australian rider for a pair of gallopers who enter their engagements off the back of promising last-start efforts.
Purton takes the reins from Ruan Maia on improving five-year-old Rattan Kingdom, who has his eighth career start in the Class Four Tai Tam Handicap (1,200m).
After a best finish of third from six starts under Richard Gibson in his debut campaign, Rattan Kingdom turned in his best performance yet when first up for Richards at Happy Valley four weeks ago.
The son of Per Incanto sticks to the same course and distance of that length second to Lucky Gor and should be able to travel nicely in midfield with cover in his first run under Purton.
“He ran really well first up. He’s drawn middle of the field, so hopefully he can get an economical run. He should be a good chance. He seems to have held his form at home,” Richards said.
While Rattan Kingdom looks ready to win, it would seem foolish to be making any grand predictions about the fortunes of Flying On The Turf despite the seven-year-old’s much-improved showing last time out.
A winner of two of eight Victorian starts pre-import, the gelding has hardly fired a shot in 21 starts in Hong Kong, 20 of which came under the guidance of Jimmy Ting Koon-ho.
Flying On The Turf was only a length and a half away in fifth under Luke Ferraris at his only run this season and has done enough to catch the eye of Purton, who should be able to give his mount a smooth run from gate two in the Class Five Shek Lei Pui Handicap (1,200m).
Although Flying On The Turf’s long last in a trial last week must raise some questions, he does meet an even race and should be competitive.
“The trial was disappointing, but he does appear to be going well at home. It’s hard to fault him, and he’s drawn a good gate,” Richards said.
Purton’s final ride for Richards comes aboard another galloper formerly prepared by Ting in Gluck Racer.
After three wins from his first six starts, Gluck Racer looked to be around his mark for most of last season, and a bleed after trackwork in December hampered the galloper’s progress.
His current rating of 67 is only two above the mark from which he produced his most recent victory in September last year, and he trialled nicely behind Golden Sixty ahead of his return to the races.
“He’s in good order, and he trialled nicely down the straight. Most of our horses have run first up like they need a run and will improve a bit, so that’s the worry, but he’s been going well at home,” Richards said.
For his fourth and final runner, Richards has enlisted the services of the jockey who delivered him his first - and so far only - Hong Kong winner in Victor Wong Chun.
The pair joined forces to salute with Handsome Rebel three weeks ago and chase more success with To Infinity in the Class Four American Club Challenge Cup (1,200m).