Purton hopes it’s his Time for the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup

Zac Purton added value to his trophy cabinet and his bank balance with a brace at last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, taking his all-time tally to five wins at the year-end event. But the Australian ace has still to snare the biggest of them all, the HK$25 million LONGINES Hong Kong Cup.

On Sunday, Purton’s book of rides in the four Group 1 feature races is solid without offering an obvious victor. But the same might have been said last year when he urged old ally Aerovelocity to a LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint win and fired Beauty Only to a narrow LONGINES Hong Kong Mile success.

“I think, this time, they’re rides that can run nice races,” said Hong Kong’s 2013/14 champion jockey. “They’re going to be thereabouts. As always, we’re going to need a little bit of luck if we’re going to win one.”

Luck has not sided with Purton in the 10-furlong Cup so far.

“I’ve run second in the Cup twice – frustratingly close one time!” he said.

That was three years ago aboard Military Attack, who was the winner everywhere but the line as he succumbed late to Designs On Rome’s bullying drive. The margin was a short-head.

Purton will ride Time Warp for trainer Tony Cruz in Sunday’s edition. The strapping chestnut, a Listed winner in France for Sir Mark Prescott pre-import, has climbed the ranks since late last term with strong front-running efforts. Without a win in three runs this season, he has nonetheless placed each time and was collared deep in the home run when a neck second to Hong Kong’s champion 2000m galloper Werther. That was three weeks ago under Joao Moreira.

“I think Time Warp’s got an outside chance,” said Purton, who has not yet ridden the gelding in a race. “If they leave him alone in front to bowl along at his own rhythm, I can see him staying in front a while and they’ve got to run him down then.”

Time Warp exercises on the dirt track at Sha Tin earlier this week, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

Purton is well-acquainted with the biggest name among his mounts, Beauty Only. As well as last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Mile triumph, the hoop has teamed with the former Italian racer for 12 of his last 13 starts.

“I don't ride him in his track work but the stable tells me he’s come on from his last run,” Purton said, referencing the six-year-old’s fourth behind Seasons Bloom in the G2 Jockey Club Mile.

“His form’s pretty good and I expect him to go out there and run a very competitive race,” he added.

Beauty Only has drawn wide in gate 12 and Purton is not enamoured with that berth, despite the fact that his mount can usually be seen flashing wide down the Sha Tin straight from a deep-lying position.

“I always prefer to draw in if I can but the pace of the race is going to be key to us because we’re dictated by that draw now, as to where we’re going to be in the race,” he explained. “How far back we’re going to be will depend on how the horses inside me begin and what they’re going to do.”

Purton teams with Cruz in the Group 1 curtain-raiser, the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m). His second victory at the event was a shock win in this race aboard the John Moore-trained Dominant back in 2013. This time he has sided with Gold Mount, a compact yet talented stayer, best-known overseas for winning the King George V Handicap (2400m) at Royal Ascot in 2016.

“I feel like he’s got more to give,” Purton said. “We haven't seen the best of him yet and I have no doubt he can run the distance.”

Purton was checked at the tail at a vital stage when the bay finished off a closing fourth behind Werther in the G2 Jockey Club Cup (2000m) last time out.

“He’s not without some hope but it is a strong race this year and he’s going to need everything to go his way,” the rider added.

As for a third LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint win, Purton is pinning his hopes on the front-running Japanese filly Once In A Moon. Trainer Makoto Saito’s charge, third in the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) in October, has a favourable draw in gate two.

Purton rode the filly in a piece of turf track work on Thursday morning and was pleased with the outcome.

“She sprinted up really good over the last 600 metres, she let down well and ran right through the line. She feels like she’s in pretty good form,” he said.