Zac Purton snared three wins at Happy Valley midweek, one of those for the John Size stable, and the champion jockey is looking for more of the same at Sha Tin on Sunday (24 February) as he seeks to increase his considerable advantage in the title race.
With Size’s star stable jockey Joao Moreira serving a suspension, Purton has four rides on the 10-race card for the champion trainer including the bright young hope, Full Of Beauty.
“I’m just getting on the right horses at the moment,” Purton said as he aims to maintain the streak that has carried him to the winner’s arch eight times in the past three meetings.
The Australian has banked a pair of trebles in the last week and a half to edge back to the form that saw him complete a brilliant five-timer on 16 December. Following that pre-Christmas haul, the wins had been arriving in a steady stream rather than a torrent.
“Things weren’t slow but for a while I was just getting one winner a meeting or a couple here and there, which is good but it’s not quite good enough for me. It’s nice to now be able to up the ante a little bit,” he said.
“Recently we’ve had the holiday period, with Chinese New Year, so it felt like I was a little bit out of my routine and rhythm. Now that all that stuff is past, I feel like I’ve got back into the groove again and I suppose the results are saying that,” he said.
Purton notched 18 wins from 29 December through the Chinese New Year meeting on 7 February. That brought a win strike rate of 18%, a very healthy return but below his season’s strike rate of 21%.
His nine wins in the four fixtures since Chinese New Year have come at a win strike rate of 34.6%. And, with 72 successes on the board – 20 more than his nearest chaser, Karis Teetan – the Australian ace is well on course to hit his season’s goal.
“I start every season thinking 100 is the target. That’s a good mark to get to; it’s not easily achievable but it’s a good mark and anything beyond that is a bonus,” he said.
“I hope that now I’m on a roll I can build the momentum and go on with it.”
Purton partnered Size’s talented three-year-old Champion’s Way to success on Wednesday and he climbs aboard another of the stable’s rising stars, Full Of Beauty, in the Class 3 Wu King Handicap (1200m).
Moreira has partnered the Kwok family’s four-year-old to three exciting wins and Purton is pleased to have been handed the opportunity to guide the Darci Brahma gelding to what he hopes will be a fourth straight victory.
“He’s typical of John Size’s horses: they just continue to improve start after start,” Purton said. “That last win was very good: not many horses can cover ground and work like he did and still get the job done, so there’s a lot to like about it.
“He’s only got to repeat that performance, even with more weight on his back and he’s the one to beat again.”
Purton will also ride Size’s Time To Celebrate in the Class 2 Fu Tai Handicap (1600m), which features three horses still holding BMW Hong Kong Derby entries, Superich, Gold Chest and Epic.
Another with a Derby ticket waiting to be punched is the Chris So-trained Tianchi Monster and Purton will partner him in the Class 3 Tai Hing Handicap (2000m). The rider is two from two on the 80-rated gelding who is looking to notch a third win in his last four starts.
“He’s been going good recently, he’s just found his groove as well,” Purton said. “Since Chris put the hood on him he’s just relaxed that little bit more in the race and that’s enabled him to finish off a little stronger.
“He’s got in a couple of races where he’s got in the right run and things have worked out, which always helps, but I feel like he’s racing well at the moment. Having to carry the weight (133lb) is a concern but there’s no reason why he’s not going to perform well again.”
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club