Zac Purton continues his pursuit of history at Sha Tin on Sunday (9 July) as John Size – who is bidding for a record 12th Hong Kong trainers’ championship – hopes Courier Wonder’s consistency will be rewarded when the sprinter tackles the Class 1 Swaine Cup Handicap (1200m).
With a career-high 169 wins from 688 rides for the season, Purton requires only one more win to equal Joao Moreira’s single-season record of 170 wins from 710 mounts in 2016/17. The Australian posted his 1,600th Hong Kong win on Thursday night (6 July) with only Douglas Whyte (1,813) amassing more victories in Hong Kong.
Purton has three meetings left this season in which to extend his 76-win buffer over Vincent Ho (93) as Size strives to seal the 2022/23 trainers’ championship after a tussle with reigning champion and former protégé Frankie Lor.
Holding a 10-win buffer over Lor – 74-64 – with 31 races left in the season, Size is optimistic Courier Wonder can enhance his title aspirations with victory.
Winless in 14 starts since stringing together five consecutive victories in an outstanding debut season when he was acclaimed as Hong Kong’s Most Improved Horse in 2020/21, Courier Wonder has twice been placed at Group 1 level without breaking through.
Courier Wonder will carry 135lb under Hugh Bowman on Sunday when he faces only five rivals – Duke Wai (134lb), Master Eight (124lb), Rewarding Together (121lb), Ima Single Man (115lb) and Adios (115lb).
“He (Courier Wonder) is just at that level where it’s difficult for him to win a race, but in the handicap conditions – even though he carries a heavy weight – that’s probably his best chance of winning one,” Size said.
“He probably went close one other day (second to Duke Wai on 5 March) when he carried a heavy weight (135lb). I think his condition is good. He looks fine. He hasn’t been over-taxed with racing as far as we know and I think he’s still got another good run in him.
“Small fields are always very tricky but I think there’s enough pace in this race to give him a chance.”
Duke Wai will have his 11th start this season on Sunday for Pierre Ng, who hopes the seven-year-old can again contend strongly.
“He’s been doing very well this season, travelling to Dubai and coming back. We decided to give him one more run before the break due to the small field and this time we’ve got Zac on him and that will help him jump a little faster and get him into a good position and finish off well,” Ng said.
“He’s in very good condition, he’s freshened up and he’s trialled well last week, so hopefully we get the result – he’s a lovely horse to train and I can see that he still wants to do it. Hopefully, next season, we can do a little bit more.”
Sunday’s 11-race card kicks off with the Purves Quaich Plate (1200m) for Griffins at 4pm (AEST 18:00).
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club