Exultant raced to an authoritative victory in the Group 3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday matching obvious aptitude with a willing resolve to gallop a length and a quarter clear of his closest rival.
“It’s never easy to carry top-weight in Group races so that was a good effort,” jockey Zac Purton said of the 1.7 favourite.
The Tony Cruz-trained four-year-old defied a 133lb impost and a wide passage on the final turn to see off his seven rivals in a time of 1m 46.09s, well inside standard. Stablemate Gold Mount (133lb) led the vanquished with a strong closing run, three lengths ahead of the John Size-trained Dinozzo (125lb).
“I felt we had only one horse to beat and that was Gold Mount,” Purton said. “I knew he was always going to be giving me a start so if I got first run on him and kept going I knew I’d be hard to beat. He’s fit, he’s been racing over longer distances and that’s his style.”
Exultant had led home Gold Mount at their previous start, too, when the pair filled the minor placings behind another Cruz galloper, Pakistan Star. That was in the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup over 2400m, the distance at which the Irish import had won the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap in May.
Purton made use of the bay’s innate stamina this afternoon, shifting wide and beginning an advance as the field began to turn out of the backstretch. Exultant, driven along, was the widest runner in a lead-contesting line of four taking the home turn. The Teofilo gelding had that battle won at the 400-metre mark and maintained a relentless locomotion to the line.
“He’s starting to begin better, so he’s going to help himself in that regard, but he’s still one-paced,” the premiership leader said.
Exultant’s effort handed Cruz a first Premier Plate win in 10 years, since Bullish Cash carried 116lb to success in 2008.
“I was confident of Exultant and Gold Mount, I expected them to be first and second and the jockeys rode the right race,” the handler said.
“Zac rode the perfect race on Exultant. This horse has one pace – Zac came early with his run and showed exactly how to outrun them. Next season, he’ll be aimed at the staying races like the Hong Kong Vase.”
Cruz completed a feature race double when the Karis Teetan-trained California Whip won the G3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 27 June.
Exultant lands a second career Group 3 win in the Premier Plate Handicap, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club