Zac Purton has 99 wins this season. (HKJC Photo)
By Declan Schuster
HAPPY VALLEY, H.K.—Zac Purton will pursue a memorable 100th win this season when he heads to Happy Valley tomorrow night (Wednesday, 1 March) armed with a full book of rides.
Aiming to unseat Joao Moreira as the quickest jockey to reach a century of wins in a Hong Kong racing season, Purton is relying heavily on trainer Jamie Richards for the victory with his last four rides on the nine-race fixture coming in tandem with the New Zealander.
“He’s (Jamie Richards) built the momentum as the season has gone on, although his stable lacks a little bit of quality, he’s been able to turn out regular winners – he’s getting the most out of the horses he has got. He’s doing a good job and hopefully he can carry that through to the end of the season and beyond,” Purton said.
Moreira set the record for the fastest 100 wins in the 2016/17 season, accomplishing the feat in 413 rides. Purton has 99 wins from 399 rides ahead of tomorrow night’s card as he aims to reach the 100-win mark for the eighth time since arriving in Hong Kong at the start of the 2007/08 racing season.
“My rides are sort of so-so on Wednesday – there’s nothing there that stands out. I’ve got some bad barriers to go with it, so I’m going to need things to go my way, but it is what it is. Hopefully one of them can win and we can just tick that off,” Purton said.
The last start-winning Hoss kicks off Purton and Richards’ pairings when he takes his place in the second section of the Class 4 Shek Kip Mei Handicap (1200m).
“He saved all the ground, and he got the split, but he did a good job and it’s going to be harder this time with a bit more weight and he’s drawn wide again,” Purton said.
Hoss broke through under an astute ride by Purton to get off the mark at his fourth attempt in Hong Kong. The Fiorente gelding will break from gate 11 tomorrow night.
“I’ll have to see how the track is playing as well, whether horses can make ground, so he’s got a little bit more ahead of him this time, but it certainly seems like he’s progressing the right way,” Purton said. “He’s going to get out over further in time, I don’t think this is his trip, so he’s done a good job so far.”
Seasons Wit will make a highly anticipated Hong Kong debut for Richards in the Class 3 Chak On Handicap (1000m) under Purton from gate three. The Capitalist gelding was a one-time winner in Australia for Anthony & Sam Freedman.
“He’s a nice horse – he’s a PP (Privately Purchased Horse) out of Melbourne and he was gelded before he came up. He looks like he’s turned the corner since he’s been gelded,” Richards said.
The three-year-old led throughout in a 1050m dirt trial earlier this month at Sha Tin, clocking 1m 00.94s with six lengths in hand over his nearest rival.
“We were happy with his trial, obviously PPs don’t have a great record here first-up in Hong Kong but we thought he was ready to head off to the races and he’s drawn a good barrier.
“There looks to be plenty of pace in the race, so hopefully he can just get a nice run in behind them – I’m looking forward to him having his first start tomorrow night,” Richards said.
Casa Cosmo narrowly missed over a mile at Sha Tin last start, and he returns tomorrow night to contest the Class 3 Pak Tin Handicap (1650m) for Richards and Purton before Armour Eagle closes out the fixture for the pair in the Class 3 Nam Shan Handicap (1200m) from barrier 12 – the same draw that returned his win two starts ago.
Richards has 17 wins from 171 runners for HK$16.19 million in earnings so far through his first season of training in Hong Kong.
“It was a bit of a frustrating start to the season, understanding how it all works here because it’s very different to training horses in New Zealand. Slowly but surely, we’re getting our head around it, we have a few new horses starting to come out,” Richards said.
Richards and Purton have combined for four wins since the beginning of February.
“Zac’s chasing Moreira’s record, so he’s looking for as many winners as he can get and he’s riding well for the stable – so long may that continue,” Richards said.
Earlier on the programme, Purton also has the chance to break the record aboard Quorum, Robot Warrior, A Americ Te Specso, Management Folks and debutant Joy Coming.
Wednesday’s (1 March) nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 6.45pm with the Class 5 Un Chau Handicap (1650m).