After a lean run by his lofty standards, star jockey Zac Purton burst back to his best with a fabulous five-timer at Happy Valley.
In recent years, the four-time champion has been used to taking home a haul of three or more every few meetings, but he’d had just 20 winners combined from the previous 15 cards heading into Wednesday night, with a double his biggest result in that time.
While they’re great numbers for most people, Purton belongs in a different stratosphere – as totals of 147, 168 and 136 in his previous three title-winning terms suggest – but he bounced back in style at the city track and now has 70 victories for the campaign.
The Australian still remains 25 behind his arch-rival Joao Moreira in the race for this year’s trophy but with the Magic Man missing through suspension, Purton was able to play.
He dominated proceedings, kicking things off with Peter Ho Leung’s Wood On Fire in the third race before rattling off four straight with Hurry Hurry Gain, Ever Force, Wealthy Delight and Wind N Grass.
It was a brilliant display of riding and his first quintet since May 6 last year.
“It was a nice night, I had a few opportunities and a little bit of luck,” Purton said. “Luck goes a long away. It’s not easy to [ride five winners].
“Hopefully things can start to roll along a bit more. I’m not doing anything different – right place, right time. That’s all.”
The effort of Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Hurry Hurry Gain was probably the best, the second-starter saluting with ease in the manner of a horse with some upside.
“We had to do some work to get the spot [behind the leaders] but what I liked is that he relaxed mid-race and then when it was time to go again in the straight, he picked up and put them away,” Purton said.
“I think he’s a progressive horse and he’s a bit unassuming. I think he’s been looking after himself a little bit – he did well.”
Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Ever Force also showed some toughness, the tiny three-year-old lumping 133 pounds to victory in the sixth event.
“It was a good, tough effort from him. He was out on his feet at the 150m, he did a good job to keep galloping along to get the result,” Purton said. “When he came into the straight, he was off balance and not responding but I think his class got him through.
“It’s not easy for three-year-olds to do that and he’s very small. He’s just over 1,000 pounds and he had to carry top weight as well. It was a good effort.”
Purton’s last two successes came for 11-time champion trainer John Size – just their second and third winners together in the past two seasons – and they nearly made it a third when Savaquin fell a neck short in the final race of the night.
Meanwhile, Alex Lai Hoi-wing made a rare appearance in the winner’s circle, securing his second victory of the season with All Best Friends in the opening event.
The 37-year-old, who was Hong Kong’s champion apprentice in 2004-05 and 2005-06, rarely gets a chance on a horse prominent in the market, but took full advantage on Manfred Man Ka-leung’s veteran.
After a quiet run in transit, Lai found clear running early in the straight and the horse did the rest, running over the top of his rivals.
“It’s nice to get another winner – this is my first one of 2021,” said Lai, who last tasted success with Moon Peaks on Boxing Day.
“It was a bit of a problem early because he missed the start and I didn’t want to push too hard because 1,650m is too long for him. So I just had to be patient and wait until the last 400m. He’s not a Class Five horse, so it was good that he can win.
“Hopefully I can keep going. I’ll keep trying to get on horses with winning chances and do my best.”