Purton has Moreira’s championship lead in sight at Happy Valley
Zac Purton hopes he can take advantage of rival Joao Moreira’s absence and make a move towards the top of the jockeys’ championship with a strong book of rides at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, most notably Starlight in the Class 3 Perfect Gear Handicap (1200m) and Winwin Ruby in the Class 3 Dordenma Handicap (1650m).
Purton sits second in the riders’ title race with 19 wins, five adrift of three-time Champion Jockey Moreira. However, with the Brazilian sitting on the sidelines for the next two meetings through suspension, Purton is hoping to bridge that margin.
“It has been good to get a few wins recently,” Purton, who has ridden doubles at the last three meetings, said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (24 October). “I’ve had a lot of seconds and a lot of bad barriers to deal with as well, so I’m happy with how I’ve gone so far. I’m due for some good gates and hopefully they come quickly. I’m not far away.”
Both Starlight and Winwin Ruby are among those who have drawn well for the Australian rider on Wednesday night, each drawing gate two in their respective races.
Starlight scores back-to-back wins at Happy Valley last start, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Starlight (131lb) enters the Perfect Gear Handicap as a winner of three of his last four races, all over the Happy Valley 1200m. He now finds himself as topweight in the Class 3 contest, but Purton believes he is capable of winning once again.
“Obviously, he’s going very well,” Purton said. “He’s in good form, he’s drawn a nice gate so he’s going to get a nice run again. I don’t think it’s all over for him yet – he’s found another suitable race. If the tempo is there to suit, there’s no reason that he can’t continue on his way.”
Starlight first debuted in June 2016, but it was not until May 2017 that he scored his first win, just as he was on the brink of dropping into Class 5. Now, he is potentially looking at a rise into Class 2 should he win again – and Purton says the Red Element gelding is typical of many horses in Hong Kong.
“So many of them, they just take a while to acclimatise and settle in,” he said. “Starlight had always shown that he had Class 3 ability early on, but he was just a little immature and weak. As he’s strengthened up with time and wrapped his head around racing a little more, he’s put it together. Hopefully, he can win again.”
Starlight meets 11 rivals in the nightcap, including last-start winner Good Companion (124lb), course and distance specialists Master Viking (120lb) and Back In Black (129lb), and Happy Happy Star (119lb), who gets the blinkers for the first time at his Happy Valley debut.
The Class 3 Perfect Gear Handicap will jump at 10.50pm.
A race earlier, Purton will be legged aboard Winwin Ruby, who makes his first start at the city track on Wednesday night. The Pluck four-year-old has finished second at his two outings this season, both over the Sha Tin 1600m.
“He is going well, but he just keeps finding one better than him,” Purton said. “With the slightly weaker opposition at Happy Valley and a good gate, it might just be the difference between winning and finishing second.
“You’d think he’d be the type suited by Happy Valley, especially now that he’s jumping well and putting himself in the right spot. That’s a big asset at Happy Valley, and fortunately he’s come up with the gate to take advantage and do that.”
Winwin Ruby faces 11 opponents in the Class 3 Dordenma Handicap, the seventh of eight races on Wednesday night with a scheduled jump time of 10.15pm.
The opener, the Class 3 Billion Handicap (2200m), will kick off the card at 7.15pm.