JOCKEY Zac Purton can be relied upon to maintain his narrow advantage over arch-rival Joao Moreira in the race for the Jockeys’ Championship when a nine-race programme gets underway at Happy Valley today.
A winning treble at Sha Tin last Saturday saw Purton leap to the top of the table by one winner over Moreira, and he can extend that lead by close of play from the city track.
It’s worth pointing out that the former four-time Champion Jockey doesn’t look at the peak of fitness at present, but such is his drive and determination to be top-dog in the ultra-competitive environment of Hong Kong racing, he is still riding at the pinnacle of his powers.
The 39-year-old pilot has his card marked in all nine races, with the likes of Speed Force in the opener, the Yau Tong Handicap (11.45am) over nine furlongs, and fast-improving Frankie Lor-trained Gorgeous Vitality, in the Po Lam Handicap (1.45pm) over five furlongs, both having bright prospects.
Of more interest, however, is his mount BIG TWO who lines up in the competitive Division Two of the Tseung Kwan O Handicap (3.15pm) over the extended mile.
The Douglas Whyte-trained galloper, who is a grandson of Epsom Derby winner New Approach, can be considered a last time out winner without a penalty after finishing strongly behind Universal Go Go over the course and distance last month.
After a tardy start and getting too far back in the opening stages of the race, the five-year-old had to swing widest of all turning into the straight before delivering an impressive finishing kick, but the line came just too soon.
It’s safe to assume, given some luck in running, he would have run out a clear-cut winner, and with Purton taking over in the saddle, connections will hold high hopes of gaining some compensation.
Purton can also be on the mark with the Danny Shum-trained top-weight RISE BRETHREN who is seeking to follow up last month’s Sha Tin victory in the Lei Yue Mun Handicap (2.15pm) over one mile and three furlongs.
This progressive French-bred four-year-old, formerly known as Liffey River when trained by Joseph O’Brien and when a runner-up in last season’s Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot, needed every yard of the 10 furlong trip when getting up close home last time.
The step up in distance is obviously going to suit and, more importantly, Purton is a master when riding over what the locals call a ‘marathon’ distance.
Purton’s record this season, when riding over one mile and three furlongs, stands at two wins and two places from just half-a-dozen rides.
With the inside draw setting Rise Brethren up for a trouble-free journey, and question marks over many of his rivals, he should be hard to beat.
Rise Brethren 2.15pm Happy Valley
Big Two 3.15pm Happy Valley