A Americ Te Specso’s first win ever was Zac Purton’s 100th victory this season as the Australian jockey hit triple figures in a Hong Kong season for the eighth time at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Crunched late to start the first section of the Class Four Shek Kip Mei Handicap (1,200m) as the $1.95 odds-on favourite, John Size-trained A Americ Te Specso settled three back on the fence and travelled like the winner throughout under Purton, bursting between Ace Talent and Loriz in the straight en route to his maiden triumph on his seventh appearance.
For Purton, who is set not to ride again in Hong Kong until the Sha Tin programme on March 11 because he begins his two-meeting local suspension the day after he steers six gallopers on Saturday’s Randwick Guineas card in Australia, racking up 100 wins means he has achieved one of his objectives this term.
“At the start of every season, the goal is to get to 100 winners. Only three jockeys in history have ridden 100 winners in a season in Hong Kong, so if you can get to there, you should be competitive enough in the championship,” Purton said.
“It’s a fairly safe mark. I feel like it’s the mark of a good season, and now obviously, I’ll try to push the bar higher. I’ll go for [Joao Moreira’s single-season record of 170 wins], but a few of the stables I’m riding for are a little bit flat on me at the moment, so I can’t build the momentum.
“It’s a bit frustrating. I feel like I’m treading water a little bit, but I’ll just keep turning up.”
This weekend, Purton will turn up at an Australian track for the first time since Melbourne Cup Day in 2018. His assignments in Sydney include a couple of Group One rides for members of the well-known Freedman family – Communist in the Randwick Guineas (1,600m) for Michael and Artorius in the Canterbury Stakes (1,300m) for Anthony and Sam.
Purton will board his flight in good spirits after riding a Happy Valley double, the second leg of which was Hoss, whose impressive Shek Kip Mei Handicap second section success made it back-to-back wins for Jamie Richards’ sprinter.
Caspar Fownes and Douglas Whyte tuned in from Dubai, where they are preparing Senor Toba and Russian Emperor, respectively, for Super Saturday, to each see one of their lesser lights register a win.
Fownes-trained Atomic Force claimed the Class Three Chak On Handicap (1,000m), with Harry Bentley aboard the former boom juvenile from the United Kingdom.
Atomic Force arrived in Hong Kong after winning all three of his two-year-old starts across Europe, including a Group Two contest by two and a half lengths and a Group Three event by five lengths.
But Atomic Force only broke his Hong Kong duck on his eighth local outing and it came as a shock to punters, most of whom ignored the $25 roughie.
Whyte-trained HK Dragon secured the Class Four So Uk Handicap (1,650m) under Lyle Hewitson – the first of the South African jockey’s two triumphant rides.
Hewitson’s other win came aboard Snowalot, whose trainer, David Hayes, also celebrated a double. Snowalot took out the third section of the Shek Kip Mei Handicap, while the Class Three Pak Tin Handicap (1,650m) went to Star Contact under Karis Teetan.
Hot favourite Howdeepisyourlove’s two-length Class Three Nam Shan Handicap (1,200m) win made it a race-to-race double for Teetan and completed a brace for trainers’ premiership leader Size.