By Leo Schlink
Vincent Ho, Silvestre de Sousa and Matthew Chadwick have clinched the final three positions in the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) next month after Zac Purton created more Hong Kong racing history at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (23 November).
Ho, De Sousa and Chadwick will join Purton in Hong Kong’s contingent against Ryan Moore, Hollie Doyle, Jamie Kah, James McDonald, Yuga Kawada, Mickael Barzalona, Tom Marquand and Jye McNeil in the four-race series at Happy Valley on 7 December.
The trio’s elevation into the series came as Purton, 39, posted his 573rd Happy Valley win to overtake 13-time Hong Kong Champion Jockey Douglas Whyte for the most victories at the city circuit with success aboard Benno Yung’s Amazing Rocky in the Class 4 Lam Tin Handicap (1000m).
Adding to the 903 victories he has posted at Sha Tin since moving to Hong Kong in 2007, and finishing Wednesday night with a double, Purton has 1,477 Hong Kong winners overall, a figure bettered only by Whyte’s towering 1,813.
“It feels good, of course. All it does, though, is illustrate how lucky I’ve been here in Hong Kong. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities – I’ve received a lot of support. Obviously, I’ve been able to make the most of that and I’ve been able to have results which give me more opportunities,” Purton said of the milestone.
“It’s very satisfying. It’s another little milestone to tick off – and it’s something I’ll be proud of. I enjoy riding here at Happy Valley and that obviously helps. I like the tight nature of the track and the competitive racing. I like riding for luck and coming between horses. At the end of the day, you need to be on the right horse that’s able to handle the track.
“I need to thank all the trainers that have prepared the horses as well as they have to give me those chances and, hopefully, I can continue to get them.”
Addressing the future, Purton said: “I’ve got a few (goals) right? I’d like to win some more international races, IJC, Hong Kong Derby, the championship and see how many wins I can ride in a season – they’re all things to worry about as they come along but, day in day out, I try to keep riding winners.”
Purton also combined with John Size and Beauty Tycoon to win the first section of the Class 3 Kowloon Bay Handicap (1200m) before Lyle Hewitson teamed with Danny Shum atop Sunny Delight to land the first section of the Class 4 Ngau Tau Kok Handicap (1650m).
Hewitson finished the evening with a double with success on Chris So’s Exceptional Nice in the Class 3 Kwun Tong Handicap (1650m) to have 12 wins for the term, but the South African’s brace was not enough to carry him past Matthew Chadwick, who has the same number of wins but more second placings.
Sitting second in the 2022/23 jockeys’ championship with 21 winners – 25 behind Purton – Vincent Ho is excited to be contesting the series after slotting a double – which was crowned by the effortless debut triumph of Danny Shum’s Nordic Dragon in the Class 4 Ngau Chi Wan Handicap (1200m).
“I’m happy to be in. I’m sure I’ll do Hong Kong proud if I’m competitive. I’ll just do my best,” Ho said after prevailing on Francis Lui’s Theta Hedge in the Class 5 Sau Mau Ping Handicap (1650m).
Bought for HK$7 million at the 2022 Hong Kong International Sale, Nordic Dragon left a positive impression on both Ho and Shum with a rollicking three-and-a-quarter length success.
“He’s a lovely horse, the race was good. He broke from the gates and took a few strides to pick and travelled nicely by himself and he got the job done. He was very concentrated. He’s a decent horse,” Ho said.
Shum was similarly enthusiastic over the Starspangledbanner three-year-old: “He’s a nice horse and the sire is very suitable to Hong Kong. He was very impressive. I will start him again here and let him get more confidence and then I’ll move him to Sha Tin.”
De Sousa secured his IJC place with his 17th triumph of the campaign – also giving Size a double – when Power Koepp swept clear late in the second section of the Class 3 Kowloon Bay Handicap (1200m).
“It’s good to get a winner for Mr Size and it’s nice to be riding in the IJC,” de Sousa said. “It’s going to be a great night.”
Hugh Bowman combined successfully with David Hall for the second time in as many meetings when Red Brick Fighter prevailed in the second section of the Class 4 Ngau Tau Kok Handicap (1650m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday afternoon (27 November).