Golden Sixty set for rest, Cruz left smiling and Purton hits 100
Golden Sixty was the talk of Happy Valley on Wednesday (15 April) night with trainer Francis Lui revealing that his sensational BMW Hong Kong Derby hero will not contest the G1 FWD QEII Cup on 26 April.
“He won’t run,” Lui said. “He’s achieved a lot this season and we feel he needs a rest now to refresh his mind and let him develop. He’ll have a summer break and then we’ll prepare him for next season.”
Golden Sixty dominated the Four-Year-Old Classic Series – winning all three legs – in the first quarter of this year and will down tools for a well-deserved break with a record of seven wins this term from as many starts.
That news boosted the prospects of last year’s FWD QEII Cup (2000m) runner-up Exultant being able to go one place better for trainer Tony Cruz, whose smile broadened when he bagged a double at the city track thanks to California Rad and Sunshine Warrior.
The latter benefitted from an astute and powerful Chad Schofield ride to take the Class 3 Fountain Palm Handicap (1650m). The jockey has now nabbed at least one win at seven race meetings in a row.
“He did that nicely,” Cruz said. “This horse has won two in a row so he seems to like the Valley but he’s just a solid Class 3 horse.”
Cruz was also instrumental in Karis Teetan’s completion of a double on the nine-race card.
The Mauritian guided the Cruz-trained California Rad to a breakthrough score in section two of the Class 4 Larch Handicap (1200m).
“I was trialling him when he first started and I said to Tony he had a lot of ability but he was very green and immature,” Teetan said.
“He’s run some very good races this season but I think he wasn’t ready until now. Today, with the blinkers on for the first time, he felt different, he felt like he’d improved a lot and I think he’ll improve more for this.”
That win followed a first race score atop Humble Steed (126lb) – trainer Benno Yung’s 200th career win – in the opener, the Class 5 Walnut Handicap (1650m).
“He was dropped down in class and he had the perfect run today. I’d worked the horse and Benno had him in very good condition, so all credit to him,” the rider said after edging a three-way finish by a short-head from Nitro Express (132lb) and V Chevaliers (131lb) who crossed in unison to share second.
Teetan’s brace took him to 59 wins for the term, 25 short of last season’s personal best score of 84, with 25 race meetings of the current campaign remaining.
“I never set any target, I just keep riding hard and try to win on every horse I ride,” Teetan said. “The main thing here in Hong Kong is to just keep the momentum going and try to get more support.”
Purton hits the century
The championship prospects of Zac Purton were aided by a treble that took him to 100 wins for the term, just one behind premiership leader Joao Moreira who endured a blank evening.
“The target at the start of the season is always 100 and I think if you ride that amount of winners you’ve had a very good season,” Purton said. “It’s not easy to do – only three jockeys in history have done it in Hong Kong, so to get there again is satisfying because I haven’t had one stable I ride for fly this season, they’ve all sort of gone ok but not great and it’s made things a little bit hard.”
Purton’s fifth Hong Kong century came in a thrilling finale – the Class 2 Cedar Handicap (1800m) – that pitted the two great rivals in an all-out tussle through the final 500m. The champion jockey aboard Dances With Dragon slip-streamed Moreira’s back-stretch advance on Enrichment and enjoyed a slingshot run to the lead at the top of the home straight, only for the Brazilian’s mount to rally and press him all the way to the line.
“I just got a lovely drag into the race on his back,” Purton said. “They slowed the pace right off, we made the move at the right time and we had a good battle up the straight. It was good to get one over him again.”
Earlier, Island Shine and Purton took section two of the Class 3 Cypress Handicap (1200m). The win moved Ricky Yiu to 48 wins – one ahead of Lui at the top of the trainers’ premiership.
Purton kicked off his three-timer in section one of the Class 4 Larch Handicap (1200m). Compassion Sprit had the Australian aboard for the first time at his fourth start and the Manfred Man-trained three-year-old carried the champion jockey to an easy success. The 1.8 favourite broke his maiden by three quarters of a length under hands and heels.
Antoine Hamelin bagged a double at his first Hong Kong race day last Sunday and followed up with his first Happy Valley victory tonight. The Frenchman showed determined force in driving the Peter Ho-trained Lasting Friendship to a neck success in race three, the Class 4 Spruce Handicap (1650m).
Dylan Mo claimed his seventh win of the campaign aboard the Me Tsui-trained Sky Treasure in section three of the Class 4 Larch Handicap (1200m).
Apprentice Victor Wong took section one of the Cypress Handicap (1200m) on the Frankie Lor-trained Beauty Spark.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday, 19 April.