Purton upbeat about Copartner Prance as Ng, Lui vie for trainers’ title

Copartner Prance makes it four in a row.
Copartner Prance makes it four in a row.

By Leo Schlink, HKJC

Marching relentlessly towards a seventh Hong Kong jockeys’ championship, Zac Purton hopes Copartner Prance can enhance an impressive season with a fifth consecutive victory when Francis Lui’s sprinter tackles the Class 2 Lung Mun Road Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin on Saturday (8 June).

With only 10 meetings remaining in the 2023/24 season, Purton has speared to a 34-win lead – 111 to 77 – over nearest pursuer Karis Teetan, but the trainers’ championship is delicately poised with Pierre Ng (61) holding a one-win lead over Copartner Prance’s trainer Francis Lui (60).

Purton, who rides for both Ng and Lui, expects the pair’s tussle to go down to the wire.

Francis Lui has eight runners at Sha Tin.
Francis Lui has eight runners at Sha Tin.

“It’s going to be really interesting to see how these two trainers go for the remaining meetings,” said Purton, who takes seven rides tomorrow including Copartner Prince in the twilight meeting’s HK$2.84 million feature.

“He (Copartner Prince) has continually got better there, he kept raising the bar, he’s had to carry a big weight a couple of times and he seems to keep getting the job done, but he comes back to Sha Tin, where he hasn’t won a race yet. He goes up in grade, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the bigger circuit,” Purton said.

“He just seems to be getting a little bit better all of the time, he’s not progressing at a rate of knots but he just seems to keep doing enough. He’s not doing anything flash, but he just keeps getting the job done.

“Physically, he seems a little bit stronger. Mentally, he’s still a little bit of a work in progress but he’s done a good job and I can’t complain with the effort he’s been putting in, so hopefully he can transfer that back here (Sha Tin).”

With four 1200m wins in a row at Happy Valley, Copartner Prince (120lb) faces eight rivals tomorrow – Nervous Witness (135lb), Whizz Kid (135lb), Duke Wai (132lb), Tomodachi Kokoroe (129lb) Gummy Gummy (123lb), Carroll Street (121lb), Reward Smile (120lb) and Gorgeous Win (117lb).

“There’s nowhere to hide in Class 2. All these horses can gallop, they get here for a reason so it’s still not going to be an easy task for him (Copartner Prince) but if he can get into a nice rhythm in the race and give himself a chance, he’s shown at Happy Valley that he’s been strong to the line and if those horses are a little bit suspect, that could play into his hands a little bit,” Purton said.

Purton will also partner Stunning Peach in the Class 3 POLA Cup Handicap (1800m) for Tony Cruz. Formerly trained by Joseph O’Brien in Ireland, where he raced as Islandsinthestream and was placed twice at Group 1 level, Stunning Peach was an eye-catching second to Voyage Samurai over 1600m at Sha Tin on 19 May.

Stunning Peach will make his third Hong Kong start.
Stunning Peach will make his third Hong Kong start.

“(It’s) a really big ask for him to do what he’s doing at the moment. He’s very lightly-framed and he’s had to carry top weight (135lb) at both his starts,” Purton said. “He struck a wet track at his first start, which I don’t think suited him.

“He got onto a bit of a dry track last time and (with) the benefit of a run, he was able to carry the weight (135lb) a little more comfortably and I expect him to keep improving. He’s a long way from being the finished product, he’s going to be a better horse in six or 12 months’ time and he’s a stayer.

“He’s certainly a promising horse and I like what he’s been doing so far. He’s genuine and I expect him to be competitive again.”

Lui will field eight runners tomorrow – one more than Ng – and Andrea Atzeni hopes Harold Win can figure strongly for Lui in the Class 4 Hong Kong Riding For The Disabled Association Cup Handicap (1200m) after finishing fourth to Glory Elite over 1200m on 19 May.

“He ran a very promising race, his first-start. I’ve sat on him a couple of times since and it seems the horse has improved a little bit. He’s a horse, who it wouldn’t surprise me if it took another run before he knew exactly what to do,” Atzeni said.

“He’s got a good draw (barrier four) again and he should be competitive.

Saturday’s (8 June) 10-race card at Sha Tin starts with the Class 5 Butterfly Bay Handicap (1400m) at 4pm.

Author: iRace