Horse Racing
Purton wants Turtle power at the Valley

By David Morgan
02/07/2019 14:56

Zac Purton celebrates with fans after Fat Turtle’s debut win.
Zac Purton celebrates with fans after Fat Turtle’s debut win.

Zac Purton has conceded that Joao Moreira’s record of 170 wins in a season is likely beyond his reach but the champion jockey is certainly not easing down through the final four fixtures as he continues to stack up a mighty personal best.

The Australian ace has 156 wins on the board – 20 more than his previous best but 14 shy of the record – following another dazzling four-timer at Sha Tin on Sunday. He heads into Wednesday’s (3 July) Happy Valley fixture with a book of seven rides on the eight-race card.

Purton will climb back aboard Fat Turtle (120lb) in the night’s finale, the Class 2 Hoi Ha Handicap, in which Frankie Lor’s galloper – a 1600m winner in Australia – will stretch to 1650m for the first time, having raced exclusively at 1200m in Hong Kong. The rider was in the plate for the four-year-old’s debut victory back in March and has a record of that win plus one second placing on ‘The Turtle’, who steps out for a fifth time.

“It’s got to be a question mark, the 1650 (metres), especially given the gate (11) he’s drawn: he’s going to have to do work and it’s not going to be easy for him,” Purton said.

“I was hoping to draw low and get a nice soft run early on him but that’s not going to happen now. I suppose we’ll really get to see whether he can handle the distance or not.”

The rider noted, though, that the slower tempo of a mile race might be just what the Smart Missile gelding is in need of.

“We’ve been bustling him for a lot of speed in the sprint races and that’s taken a fair bit out of him, he’s been doing a good job to handle all that pressure early. At 1650, if he’s able to roll there more comfortably, maybe he can run it,” he said.

Reliable Team scores on debut for Zac Purton.

Reliable Team (133lb) is another Lor runner that benefitted from the Purton touch on debut, scoring over 1200m early last month. The three-year-old returns to the course and distance in the Class 4 Sham Chung Handicap.

“It was a good effort (on debut), he was able to jump well and get forward – that was the key – and then he ground out a good win,” Purton said. “He kept battling on quite well – he had a chance to throw it away in the early part of the straight but he found his second wind and was nice to the line.

“It’s another awful draw (9) for him and he’s got to carry more weight this time. I haven’t had a chance to look at the race yet so I don’t know how much speed is in it but we’ll be positive again and just work it out.”

The champion jockey has teamed profitably with trainer John Moore in recent months – the pair delivered three wins at the weekend including with star juvenile Aethero – and the duo will combine on Wednesday with Smart Rocket in race five and stable debutant Chefano in the Class 3 Pak Sha O Handicap (1650m).

Chefano is a two-time winner at 1800m in South Africa where he also placed in G2 company over a mile and steps out for the Moore stable after four Hong Kong starts for previous trainer Tony Millard.

“I’ve been able to ride him in a piece of work and he worked very well the other morning,” Purton said. “I was happy with that. His trial was just ok but it was on the dirt and the track that morning was quite wet – not many horses liked it but he came through it quite well. He looks healthy and he feels fit so hopefully he runs up to that.”

Size’s Ace

Shining Ace wins under Joao Moreira last time.
Shining Ace wins under Joao Moreira last time.

Three-time champion jockey Joao Moreira is backing his boss John Size to withstand the Moore onslaught in the battle for the premiership.

Moore’s weekend treble at Sha Tin left him just three wins behind long-time leader Size in the race to be champion trainer.

“(Size) seems to be a very calm, very professional person,” Size’s retained rider said. “I have to back him, as he’s been my boss for the last six or seven months. He’s a brilliant trainer and he deserves to win but I can’t see it being a running away finish: I think it’s going to be very tight. John Moore is such a brilliant trainer as well, he’s proved it thousands of times and he’s making it very interesting. It’s great for the sport.”

Moore could do with a positive night from his four runners to maintain the pressure on Size but the latter has chances of his own with six horses engaged.

Size’s Shining Ace will step up to Class 3 for the first time as he aims to snare a third win on the bounce at the expense of the Moore-trained Magic Legend in the night’s seventh contest, the Lai Chi Chong Handicap (1200m). The three-year-old took seven races to break his duck and Moreira credits Size with that breakthrough.

“I think it’s the step back in distance: John Size has done a very smart move with him,” the Brazilian said.

“Up in class, people may doubt him but he’s been doing it so well in Class 4 that you would think that he’d be alright. Sometimes when you go up in class you carry the light weight and that is the case and he’s going to appreciate that.”

Shining Ace faces solid competition but the three-time champion jockey is maintaining faith in the Testa Rossa gelding despite the rise in grade and a tricky draw in gate 10.

“It’s an open race, there are plenty of chances there, and I respect some horses in the race but also I’m fully confident about him because he’s done nothing wrong in his last couple of starts,” he said.

“Happy Valley is not a course where you want to draw on the outside. It seems there’s a little bit of speed in this race so hopefully he’ll be lucky enough to slot between them  or, if necessary, go forward and sit on the outside of the leader as he does have gate speed. He’s a versatile type of horse and he’s been doing things right.”

Wednesday’s Happy Valley card starts at 7.15pm with the Class 5 Yung Shue O Handicap (1000m).