Rider Zac Purton made big in-roads in his quest for a second jockeys’ championship at Sha Tin today (Sunday, 20 May) with a four-timer, including three for leading supporter Caspar Fownes.
Purton’s victories on the Fownes-trained trio Play It, Montreal and Rise High and the John Moore-prepared Solar Patch took the Australian jockey to 104 wins for the season, four adrift of chief rival Joao Moreira, who went winless on the card.
“It’s a funny feeling, I have ridden four winners and I’m happy with that but I know there were some missed opportunities there too,” Purton said. “Still, four winners eats into Joao’s lead and hopefully I can make the most of every chance I get over the next two months.”
Fownes and Purton have forged a noteworthy partnership in recent years that was only bolstered by the pair’s combined treble. However, the trainer said that he would be supporting both riders in their jockeys’ championship battle.
“It’s exciting for us as racing fans and exciting for the two boys,” Fownes said. “Both Joao and Zac have been riding for me, but recently Zac has probably ridden for me more. The rides are there for both jockeys, though, so whoever wants the rides can have them.”
Rise High entered the Class 2 Tourmaline Handicap as a warm 2.7 favourite. However, the four-year-old had to survive interference in the stretch and a post-race objection before he was officially declared the winner of the 1600m closer.
“It was a good effort from my horse to pick up and win that race,” Purton said. “There wasn’t that much speed early and they didn’t go quick mid-race. Then, when my horse was hampered, it really put Rise High off balance and I thought at that time he was laboring for a little bit. The last 75m, though, he showed plenty of heart to find the line.”
Fownes continued: “He’s a nice horse, there are bigger and better things in store for him. He’s going to be a very nice prospect next season. He’s enjoying his racing now and it’s really showing.”
Montreal, formerly trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott in Australia, had arrived in Hong Kong with a big wrap on him, cemented by two wide-margin victories at his last two starts in New South Wales. He showed that he was a horse headed higher with an effortless two and a quarter length victory at his second Sha Tin start in the Class 3 Lapis Lazuli Handicap over the straight 1000m.