By Leo Schlink, HKJC
On a night of milestones, Zac Purton registered a century of winners in a Hong Kong season for the sixth time to maintain hopes of overtaking Joao Moreira in the race for the 2020/21 jockeys’ championship with a double at Happy Valley on Wednesday (28 April).
The Australian brought up his 100th winner of the current term on David Hayes-trained Donc Je Suis in the Class 4 Kotewall Handicap (2200m) in class record time to reach triple figures.
The four-time champion jockey previously achieved the feat in 2013/14, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Purton, 38, first rode in Hong Kong in the 2007/08 season and now has 1270 winners in the jurisdiction – a tally bettered only by 13-time champion Douglas Whyte (1813).
Trailing Joao Moreira 115-100 in the 2020/21 championship, Purton was satisfied to reach the ton after earlier partnering Hayes-trained Red Majesty to victory in the second section of the Class 5 Lyttelton Handicap (1650m).
“It’s the mark I look to hit every season. If you get to there, it paints a picture for itself, doesn’t it? It means you’ve had a fairly decent season,” Purton said of his 100th winner before raising doubts over where he could catch Moreira with 21 meeting left in the season.
“I’ve got a long way to go, we’re running out of meetings.”
Purton achieved the milestone at his 550th ride for the season.
Moreira triumphed with Tony Cruz’s Helene Wisdom Star in the Class 3 Breezy Handicap (1650m) to maintain a significant buffer heading into the last three months of the season.
Hayes, who has posted eight winners in April to have 22 for the season, said: “Zac is just one of the classiest riders you’ll ever see. He’s just world-class. He’s proving that year after year. He makes quick decisions and that’s why he rides so many winners.”
Reveling in the stable’s searing run, Hayes predicted Donc Je Suis would be “a much better four-year-old, especially over distance.”
“He’s been jumping from the barriers poorly and we had a bit of Purton magic, so it was a good result,” Hayes said. “The young horses are starting to acclimatise and I’ve got a lot of them.
“I’m hoping to be in the mid-30s with the number of wins at the end of the season and that’s where I think I’ll be.”
Hayes is upbeat over Red Majesty’s prospects after his narrow victory delivered his first Hong Kong success.
“When I first came to Hong Kong, I thought he would be a very good PPG (Privately Purchased Griffin) but he’s been very disappointing for the owners, though I don’t think he will be from now on,” Hayes said.
“Just like a lot of young horses, they don’t always have instant success. This horse was on his tenth run before he found his form. Hopefully he can now stay on it.
“I think he can win in Class 4 now that he’s racing correctly.”
Michael Chang celebrated his 300th Hong Kong winner when Antoine Hamelin drove Family Folks to victory in the first section of the Class 4 Conduit Handicap (1200m).
“It was going to come one day,” said Chang who started training in 2005/06. “I’m very happy to win with this horse for the owner, who has supported me since I started training 15 years ago – Very loyal.
With six wins for the season, Chang remains optimistic his stable can fire before the end of the season in mid-July.
“I’ve got a few good ones coming up. I’m not going to panic, just do the best I can,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t have much of an excuse – I train a lot of slow horses.
“I’ve got some young horses – around eight horses coming next season. You have to be very careful picking the horses that come to Hong Kong – it’s very competitive. You have to pick good horses.”
David Hall notched his 24th winner of the season when Derek Leung drove Swot Troopers Wind to a slender win over Chad Schofield and Manna From Heaven in the first section of the Class 5 Lyttelton Handicap (1650m).
Leung continued an excellent season by completing a double on Hero Star for Manfred Man in the second section of the Class 4 Conduit Handicap (1200m). The victory was Leung’s 35th of the campaign.
Vincent Ho backed up a memorable FWD Champions Day treble with success on Frankie Lor’s Fa Fa in the Class 4 Hatton Handicap (1650m) before Alfred Chan coaxed the best out of Caspar Fownes-trained Snap Fit in the Class 3 Bonham Handicap (1200m).
Me Tsui and Matthew Chadwick combined to land the Class 3 Babington Handicap (1000m) with Harmony And Rich in steady rain.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin this Sunday (2 May) with the running of the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m).