Zac Purton hit a big milestone at Sha Tin on Saturday. The champion jockey became only the second rider in Hong Kong history to reach the 1000 wins mark when Thanks Forever breezed to an easy success in the Class 3 dash.
“It’s nice, it’s a nice milestone,” Purton said with an understated coolness in contrast to both the heat of the sun-soaked day and the size of the achievement.
The victory took Purton’s tally for the season to 145; the 1000 comes just 10 weeks after he surpassed Tony Cruz’s 948 wins to move clear second on the all-time list. Douglas Whyte is supreme with a final 1,813 wins, achieved across 23 seasons.
It has taken the Australian 12 seasons to compile his ongoing haul. His first campaign, back in the 2007/08 season, yielded 29 wins; his second produced 43; since a maiden century in 2013/14, he has established his position as one of the world’s best, accelerating his win accrual through the past two campaigns with strike rates of 21% and almost 24%.
“A thousand winners is just amazing,” Thanks Forever’s trainer John Moore said. “Zac’s one of the world’s top jocks and to ride the 1000th winner on one of mine was a great thrill for both myself and the stable. Kick on, Zac!”
Purton no doubt will do just that, with Joao Moreira’s all-time single season record of 170 wins enlarging on the near horizon. The soon-to-be three-time Hong Kong champion has nine race meetings in which to secure the 24 wins he needs after ending today with 146 on the board.
The rider nailed win number 1001 aboard the Moore-trained Empire Star in race eight, the Class 4 Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road Handicap (1400m).
Thanks Forever and Zac Purton, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Forever on the up
Thanks Forever (131lb), meanwhile, showed again that he is a talent worthy of a bit of hype. The three-year-old built on his recent impressive score to remain unbeaten in three.
“It was very easy, he’s obviously a talented horse,” Purton said. “He wanted to hang in a little bit today, which he didn't do last start, so I don't know what that was about, but there was a strong tailwind behind us so I knew that we would run a fast time. He went out and did that so he has a nice future.”
Moore attributed the hanging to “possibly just a little shoeing issue”.
The Duporth gelding swept through the Tuen Mun Public Riding School Handicap (1000m), surfing a tail-wind to a winning time of 55.11s; recording splits of 12.96s, 19.93s and an easing down 22.22s. The 1.2 favourite finished two and a half lengths clear of runner-up Multimillion (132lb).
“It’s great to have a top sprinter coming along for next season’s big sprints,” Moore said “We’re lucky we’ve got Aethero also, who is a year behind, but that’s two very nice horses on the up and up.
“It’s exhilarating to watch a horse like that do what he does, but then again it’s Class 3, he’s got to move up the grade and they are going to get closer to him next time. I’m just lucky I’ve got another really decent horse on my hands with Group potential.”
Moore, with a four-timer today, is still chasing the trainers’ title and closed the gap to five wins adrift of champion and leader John Size. The handler said, “I think it’ll go right to the line, right to the last day,” and confirmed that he intends to send his rising star to war once more before the season ends on 14 July.
“This horse will run again on 1 July, a 1200-metre Class 2, and that might be the end of it for the season,” he said.
“It’s just an amazing day, everything’s fallen into place. Four winners – the telescopic sight has got a little bit smaller. I think I’ve got the ammunition but John Size also has some ‘400 series’ the (Class 4 newcomers) so I’m watching.
Moore wrapped up his four-timer with the Karis Teetan-ridden Beauty Energy in race nine, section two of the Class 3 Lung Mun Road Handicap (1400m). He also saddled Private Rocket to a breakthrough win in section one of that race, a success that gave jockey Vincent Ho his 50th of the campaign.
He made it 51 in the finale, the Class 3 Pok Fu Lam Country Park Handicap (1200m), when the Francis Lui-trained Golden Sixty completed a hat-trick with a battling effort.
“I didn’t expect this season to go as well as it has but it could always be better, so I’ll still work on improving. This summer I won't have a break, I’ll keep riding and keep improving,” Ho said.
“I got some interference on Golden Sixty but I let him have a breather when he got squeezed and he came again. He finished strongly.”
Ho’s previous best total was 39 wins, achieved when he was crowned champion apprentice in 2010/11.
Domeyer masters Sha Tin
It was announced earlier this week that Aldo Domeyer has secured a short-term contract to begin next term and he celebrated with his first Sha Tin wins. The South African had achieved his four previous Hong Kong victories at Happy Valley and enjoyed his breakthrough at the big track aboard the Francis Lui-trained Victoriam in the opener, the Class 4 Chai Wan Road Handicap (1200m).
He quickly moved his Sha Tin tally to two when Good Days edged out McQueen to win the afternoon’s trophy race, the Class 4 Hong Kong Riding for the Disabled Association Cup Handicap (1800m).
“I thought I had fair rides but I thought the draws put them on the back foot,” Domeyer said. “I was getting the hang of Sha Tin and I just needed it to click. I got all the confidence from Happy Valley and I just slowed things down, I put myself in a position to follow the right people. It seemed to pay off and everything just happened quite smoothly despite the bad draws, so it was just a matter of waiting and picking the right time to go.”
Joao Moreira also claimed a double. The Brazilian ace moved to 796 Hong Kong wins with victories on the Dennis Yip-trained Hurricane Hunter in the Class 5 Pok Fu Lam Public Riding School Handicap (1400m) and the Size-trained Shining Ace in the Class 4 Lei Yue Mun Public Riding School Handicap (1200m).
Shum grabbed a brace of his own. The Schofield-ridden Super Model, a graduate of the March 2018 Hong Kong International Sale, took the Class 5 Lei Yue Mun Park Handicap (1200m) for the handler who moved on to 46 wins for the season.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Wednesday, 12 June.