ZAC PURTON will be the go-to jockey for thousands of passionate racing fans when they pass through the turnstiles at Happy Valley this afternoon.
Champion jockey Purton is riding on a crest of a wave. Six winners from his past 19 rides, including two masterclasses aboard the world’s best miler Beauty Generation and Exultant in the local Group Ones last Sunday, set him apart from his rivals at present.
There is nothing the Hong Kong locals like more than a jockey who, in their opinion, has the god of good fortune on his side, and they will follow him blindly.
There is just one problem. His horses are going to be over-bet.
His dance-card has been marked in seven of the eight races, and all are guaranteed to be at the forefront of the betting.
In the 12.45pm over six furlongs, he climbs aboard Champion’s Way who looks sure to be the shortest-priced favourite at the meeting.
This Australian-bred three-year-old, who usually has Joao Moreira in the saddle, was all the rage when making his debut over course and distance three weeks ago – and he duly obliged.
With Moreira suffering another enforced holiday for a riding misdemeanour, Purton must have been on the mobile like a flash to secure the ride from champion trainer John Size.
This partnership has a 33 per cent strike-rate this season, so it’s easy to see why Champion’s Way will be a red-hot favourite. However, there is a slight suspicion that he may not quite be the finished article yet.
He did show a lot of inexperience and greenness before getting his act together in the closing stages of what has proved an average contest and there could be one or two rivals here who could give him a surprise.
Newcomer Little Wise Man has already made a good impression in three local trials, one of which was around the Valley circuit.
With in-form trainer Frankie Lor and Silvestre de Sousa combining, he has to be considered, but an awkward draw for a first-time starter is off-putting.
A better proposition could be KHAKI who has finally been handed a good draw for the first time this season.
There was lots to like about his placed performance when flashing home from an unpromising position in a fast time back in December.
Trainer Tony Millard has booked smart 7lb claimer Victor Wong to ride, which could prove a massive bonus and Khaki and Wong will be very hard to keep out of the frame.
Naboo Star, who lines up in the 1.45pm over the extended mile, is another who could start at prohibitive odds with the ‘Zac-Man’ in the saddle.
This lightly-raced gelding was sold at the HK International Sales for around £550,000 last March and has steadily progressed in three runs over six furlongs this season.
The question mark is will he stay the extended mile? He is no certainty to, and a better alternative could be MERRYGOWIN whose trainer Paul O’Sullivan was visibly upset when he was beaten into fourth last time out.
He is racing off his last winning mark, is drawn for a dream journey, and has inform Karis Teetan in the saddle.
Khaki e/w 12.45pm Happy Valley
Merrygowin 1.45pm Happy Valley