Zac Purton faces challenge as he seeks more LONGINES IJC glory

Maddy Playle

04/12/2023 14:53

Zac Purton is a three-time LONGINES IJC winner.
Zac Purton is a three-time LONGINES IJC winner.

Six-time Hong Kong Champion Jockey Zac Purton believes he has his work cut out in his bid for a fourth success in the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (6 December) after a challenging start to the season.

However, several of the rider’s mounts were drawn advantageously at the official allocation event at Sha Tin on Monday (4 December) and he is optimistic the mid-week night meeting can act as a launchpad for a successful Sunday (10 December) at the HK$118 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR).

Purton, who won the IJC in 2017, 2020 and 2021, rode a double at Sha Tin on Sunday (3 December) to take his seasonal tally to 34 wins and, while he isn’t content with how the campaign has panned out so far, he is looking forward to representing Hong Kong, China and taking on a world-class line-up including Ryan Moore, James McDonald and Yuga Kawada.

“The season hasn’t gone so well so far, I need to be better,” Purton said. “I just like to win races and I go out there in every race trying my best. It has been a challenge at the moment but it’s an exciting week and it’s good to be a part of it.

“Hong Kong is an extremely tough place, nothing ever gets given to you and you’ve got to work for everything you get – and if you do well, the rewards are there.

“I don’t think I’ve drawn the best horses but the fields seem fairly even this year. I think there’s good depth to it and a lot of the jockeys have got chances. I don’t think I’ve got a standout and I think I’ve got my work cut out.

“This week has been very good to me in the past so hopefully it can be again.”

Early positioning is key at the city track and Purton’s problems will at least be minimised in the first and final legs, with his mounts Savvy Delight drawn one in the Class 4 handicap over 1000m and Kaholo Angel set to break from two in the Class 3 handicap over 1200m.

Kaholo Angel is a last-start winner.

He identifies fellow local rider Karis Teetan, who is trailing him by 12 in the championship, and Kazakhstan-born Bauyrzhan Murzabayev as his leading threats in the competition, which will help him tune-up for a quartet of Group 1 rides on Sunday.

While Purton admits his mounts in the HK$24 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) and HK$36 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), La City Blanche and Sword Point, are up against it, hopes are high crack local sprinter Lucky Sweynesse can strike in the HK$26 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) after finishing a luckless sixth last year.

“Lucky Sweynesse didn’t get a clear run in the race last year and we’re looking to atone for that,” he said of the five-year-old, who took the G2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) by a neck last time.

“He’s peaking at the right time, he’s steadily improved as the season has gone on, especially with a bit more racing. I think he’s at his best now so hopefully he can have even luck on raceday and he can do his thing.”

While wary of his troublesome tendencies, the rider is similarly hopeful about his mount Beauty Eternal in the HK$32 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m). The strong-travelling chestnut impressed on his most recent start when fighting off Beauty Joy to win the G2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m).

“Beauty Eternal is a little bit of a tricky horse,” Purton said. “He’s not the easiest to get to the gate, that’s the hardest part about riding him, but he’s got some speed and he can put himself in a nice spot. The way the race was run last time really suited him but hopefully he’s taken some confidence out of that victory.

“He’s an improving horse and we still haven’t seen him at his very best. Hopefully he can produce that this weekend and he’s going to need to because it’s a much stronger race than last time.

“He’s a lovely horse. The first time I sat on him I thought he was pretty special. He’s done everything right and he hasn’t let us down. As he’s maturing, he’s continuing to improve and I don’t know how far he’s going to go.”

Wednesday’s (6 December) nine-race LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 6.30pm with the Class 5 Australia Handicap (1200m).

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