Via David Morgan, Hong Kong Jockey Club
They say you can’t keep a good man down and Zac Purton proved that adage with a quartet of wins at Sha Tin today, Sunday, 15 September.
The champion jockey saw a 26-meeting winning streak end on Wednesday night but banished that rare blank with a trophy-lifting return: he added sheen to his four-timer in the Class 3 Fakei Cup Handicap (1200m) thanks to a belated breakthrough win from the British import Solomon’s Bay.
Purton had to cajole the white-faced five-year-old to repel the attentions of California Gungho (116lb). The Exceed And Excel chestnut prevailed by a neck at his 10th Hong Kong start.
“He was thinking about it,” the rider said. “He travelled really strongly and through the mid stages he took control a little bit; he charged through the field as the pace was steadying. He travelled into it around the corner like he was full of a lot of promise but when I let him go he didn’t want to go on and get the job done.”
Solomon’s Bay has so far shown a propensity for not fulfilling apparent promise and is yet to live up to the potential of a pre-import Listed win at Epsom. But Purton is hopeful that today’s win – off the back of an eye-catching barrier trial – could be a positive signal.
“Overall, he’s been disappointing,” he said. “He promised so much when he first came here but now he’s finally won a race and he’s still quite lightly-raced here, so hopefully he can go on from this. He’s still not the finished product.”
Solomon’s Bay’s win opened trainer Frankie Lor’s account for the season, the handler having had only one horse in the first three from 15 starts prior to this.
“It’s always good to get the win,” the handler said. “This is a bit of a difficult horse, sometimes he’s keen and that’s why I’ve put him in a cross noseband. Also, he’ll look at the other horse, so that’s why he has the side winker (cheek pieces) too; I know he’s not easy so that’s why I got Zac to ride him.
“I think maybe he can go a little bit further, 1400 metres, and also the all-weather track will be suitable for him. But there are not many races on the all-weather.”
Purton had earlier wasted no time in regaining the winning thread. The Australian ace took the opener, the Class 4 Hwamei Handicap (1800m) in Class record time (1m 46.54s), to give trainer Dennis Yip his first win of the term.
And the champ gave the same favour to John Moore, the seven-time champion trainer getting his opening win with Buddies in the Class 3 Swallow Handicap (1650m, all-weather).
“All of us have got off the mark – Size, Lor, myself, we’re all off the mark today! It’s good,” Moore said. “A lot of mine had breaks, a few went to Conghua and had nice breaks in the paddock – they’ve come back a bit above themselves in condition but I think that did them the world of good.
“We had a great season last season, a lot of horses got right up to their marks so we’re looking to the newcomers in the stable to hopefully give us another 55- 65 (wins) season.”
Buddies, the 1.7 favourite, caused a collective gasp from the crowd when he knuckled at the start, but found his feet to sail away to a length and a quarter win under top-weight of 133lb.
“It was a little scary for everyone, he breaks the lids very quickly,” Moore said.
Purton bagged his fourth win in the finale, the Class 3 Woodpecker Handicap (1400m), when the Danny Shum-trained Happy Fun (130lb) gave his all to hold off second-placed dead-heaters Cot Campbell (133lb) and Mighty Maverick (120lb).
The champion ended the day on top in the premiership with eight wins to rival Joao Moreira’s six.