Zac Purton rides 1600th Hong Kong winner with Happy Valley treble

Leo Schlink

07/07/2023 00:13

Zac Purton lands another huge milestone at Happy Valley.
Zac Purton lands another huge milestone at Happy Valley.

Zac Purton has become only the second jockey in Hong Kong racing history to ride 1,600 winners as the Australian continues a relentless quest of history following a treble at Happy Valley on Thursday night (6 July).

Douglas Whyte (1,813 wins) is the only other jockey to reach the 1,600-win mark in Hong Kong and Purton’s three-timer leaves him with a career-high 169 wins for the season – and on the verge of creating more history across the remaining three meetings of the 2022/23 season.

Purton, 40, requires only one more victory to match Joao Moreira’s single-season record of 170 wins as the five-time Hong Kong champion – who leads this season’s jockeys’ championship by 76 wins over Vincent Ho (93) – moves ever closer to Whyte’s colossal career haul.

The Australian was elated at his latest achievement.

“It’s a massive number – as everyone knows and, as I keep saying – it’s hard to ride a single winner here in Hong Kong, let alone 1,600 so I need to thank all the trainers and owners for the opportunities they’ve given me,” Purton said.

“Without them, I wouldn’t be there. It’s very satisfying but I’ve still got a little bit more work to do this season.”

Reward Smile lifts under Zac Purton in the finale.

Purton’s winners tonight came for three different trainers – Francis Lui (Stoltz), Me Tsui (Sergeant Pepper) and John Size (Reward Smile).

Reward Smile’s victory in the Class 3 Waterfall Bay Park Handicap (1200m) left Size with a 10-win advantage – 74 to 64 – over reigning champion Frankie Lor with only 31 races left in the season.

Size would also create history with a record 12th trainers’ championship. The champion handler currently shares the record of 11 titles with Australian compatriot George Moore.

Resuming for Francis Lui, Stoltz almost broke his own course record in the Class 2 Hong Kong Park Handicap (1000m). Clocking a blistering 55.93 – marginally outside the 55.85s he set in January, 2022 – Stoltz won by almost two lengths.

Purton said: “We rolled all the way and he likes a high cruising speed. He’s a big-striding horse and loves to get into that rhythm, which suited him tonight. He did a good job and Francis has done a good job to get him back.”

Boosting his career tally to five wins from 13 starts, Stoltz suffered from lameness last season and spent several months at Conghua before returning to Hong Kong.

“I'm happy to see him come back. Last season, he had a problem, and he had to take a break for the first half of this season,” Lui said. “His record shows he likes Happy Valley very much, but I think 1000m at either course suits him. That’s why he won at Sha Tin the start before this one.”

Me Tsui’s Sergeant Pepper showed tremendous speed after bursting from barrier 12 to race on the speed before holding on for a brave win in the Class 4 Shan Kwong Road Park Handicap (1000m).

Joyful Hunter scores narrowly under Vincent Ho.

Lui is poised to post a career-best seasonal tally after talented Joyful Hunter gave the handler his stable’s 60th triumph of the campaign with a dramatic win in the first section of the Class 4 Victoria Park Handicap (1200m).

Unbeaten in two starts, the Darci Brahma gelding shouldered 135lb to down leader Colonel (121lb) by a short head with Savvy Chic (132lb) a further short head away in third. Lui slotted 63 wins in 2019/20.

Celebrating his 63rd birthday with a pair of Class 5 wins, Peter Ho matched Lui’s brace but still needs two more wins at Class 4 or higher to satisfy the trainers’ performance criteria.

Ho finished the meeting with 16 wins, but four of those have been achieved in Class 5, however his delight was clear after Jubilation’s victory in the Class 5 Fa Hui Park Handicap (1650m) under Keith Yeung.

“It’s my best birthday present for me, it worked perfectly,” Ho said. “I need two (more wins in Class 4 or above). I’m struggling. I hope I can do it. In the next two or three meetings, I’ve got some good chances. It depends if I have luck or not.”

Ho also struck with Viva A La and Alexis Badel in the Class 5 Kowloon Park Handicap (1200m). Badel sealed a double when Ricky Yiu’s Watch Buddy clinched the second section of the Class 4 Victoria Park Handicap (1200m).

Watch Buddy caps a double for Alexis Badel.
Watch Buddy caps a double for Alexis Badel.

A three-year-old by Rothesay, Watch Buddy was having only his fifth start.

A daring mid-race move from Hugh Bowman paved the way for D Star’s victory in the Class 4 Morse Park Handicap (1650m). Trained by Tony Cruz, the Darci Brahma three-year-old, settled in the rear division before Bowman forged to the lead before coming away for a tough win.

Tony Millard secured his seventh win of the season when Super Hong Kong flayed his rivals in the Class 4 Kowloon Tsai Park Handicap (2200m) under Karis Teetan.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (9 July).

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