Zac Purton was elated and deflated at the end of Exultant’s glorious, grinding victory in the HK$25 million G1 FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday, 26 April.
The brave bay’s willingness to stretch for his rider through every demanding stride of the 2000m feature meant the champion jockey became the only rider in history to have won every Group 1 race on the Hong Kong calendar.
“The feeling going over the line – it was a combination of everything!” Purton said. “I’ve come close to winning this race so many times, it’s been very frustrating and after missing the bob in the previous race, to win this was a sense of relief.”
Purton’s day had not lived up to his hopes until the Tony Cruz-trained Exultant produced a typically rugged yet classy run to ensure the jockey finally got his hands on the one big trophy that had hitherto eluded him. Disappointment was raw less than two hours prior when he eased the defeated young gun sprinter Aethero across the line after the chestnut bled in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize, and then Beauty Generation’s head dipped down an exasperating second in the G1 Champions Mile.
The Australian was not about to let the last of the three FWD Champions Day features slip away though. Last time out in the G1 Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m), stablemate Time Warp, under Joao Moreira, stole a march and held Exultant’s late rattle; this time, wise to Moreira’s steadying of the pace up front, Purton made a long run from the 1200m point to press the Brazilian’s mount.
“I didn’t want a repeat of last time, that didn’t go well for us. I had planned to be outside in the run but my guy showed no speed early so I just had to wait until we got around that first corner and then allow him to move into the race,” Purton said.