Zac Purton, Francis Lui crowned Valley Kings after Happy Valley finale

Leo Schlink

12/07/2023 23:49

Zac Purton celebrates a treble.
Zac Purton celebrates a treble.
Zac Purton and Francis Lui have been acclaimed Hong Kong racing’s ‘Kings of The Valley’ after the pair clinched the jockey and trainer mantles for the most wins at Happy Valley this season with multiples on Wednesday night (12 July).

Entering the meeting locked on 49 wins with Vincent Ho – who had led for much of the season – Purton slotted a treble atop Jamie Richards’ Seasons Wit, Tony Cruz-trained Circuit Seven and Dennis Yip’s Vincy to finish the city circuit season with 52 victories – and 176 for the campaign so far – while Ho went winless for the night.

Lui led Caspar Fownes 31-30 heading into tonight’s fixture and sealed the issue with the victories of Hameron and Joy Coming to further enhance the best season of his career as he moved into second place overall in the trainers’ championship behind John Size (75) with 66 wins and with only 11 races left in the season.

Purton, who last Sunday (9 July) rode a quartet to eclipse Joao Moreira’s single season record of 170 wins, said: “It’s good. I’ve just struggled this season for quality rides around here (Happy Valley). The trainers that have been training the majority of winners, I haven’t been riding for.

“It can be a hard place to ride when the barriers and track bias go against you, but it’s been a little more difficult than it normally would be. I still enjoy coming here and if you get the right barrier, the right run, you’re always going to be a chance.”

Seasons Wit lands a third consecutive win.

Luke Ferraris crowned an excellent season with a treble as the South African prodigy paraded accumulated knowledge and skills with an impressive display.

The 21-year-old prevailed aboard Fast Serve, Concerto and Hameron to take his tally to 35 wins for the season – 15 more than he amassed in his 2021/22 debut campaign.

“It’s fantastic,” Ferraris beamed after Hameron’s narrow victory in the Class 3 Let Me Fight Handicap (1800m) for Francis Lui. “This caps the season so far but we still have the final meeting of the season at Sha Tin on Sunday (16 July), so I’m hoping to do well there, too.”

Twice winner of the South African champion apprentice title, Ferraris has spent the past two seasons soaking up the track nuances and race patterns in a world-class jockeys’ room featuring Purton, Ho and Hugh Bowman.

“Learning about Hong Kong and the way they ride their tracks is very important – there are some ins and outs about them – and the longer you ride here, the more you get to the know them, the better result you can get out of your horse,” Ferraris said after cleverly dictating aboard Jimmy Ting’s Concerto to win the Class 4 Silver Grecian Handicap (1650m).

“I’ve had good support this season, so credit to the trainers and owners I ride for.”

Luke Ferraris has had an excellent season.
Luke Ferraris has had an excellent season.

Ferraris combined with David Hall to win the Class 4 Kings Falcon Handicap (1000m) aboard Fast Serve, who strode to a three-length victory while clocking 56.78s.

“He’s got such a high cruising speed, so it’s really nice to see him quicken under me which he never did at his first start,” Ferraris said. “Obviously, he was green that time and he was again today – you saw him hit the inside fence – but he’s starting to do things right and as long as he continues on this trajectory, it’s pretty exciting for him.”

Purton reprised a dominant theme with a running double to open proceedings.

Tony Cruz-trained Circuit Seven (134lb) quickly took the lead from barrier 11 under Purton to claim the Class 5 Street Cat Handicap (1000m) before the five-time Hong Kong champion jockey piloted Dennis Yip’s Vincy (134lb) to his first win since April, 2021 with success in the Class 5 Sweet Orange Handicap (2200m).

Lyle Hewitson notched his 50th winner of the season with Telecom Fighters’ defiant victory in the Class 2 Sun Jewellery Handicap (1650m) for Me Tsui, having earlier struck Joy Coming’s in the first section of the Class 4 Fast Most Furious Handicap (1200m) for Lui.

Tony Millard registered his eighth win of the season when Hugh Bowman drove Togepi past One For All to clinch the second section of the Class 4 Star Shine Handicap (1200m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (16 July) with the 2022/23 season finale.

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