CRUZ AND PURTON HAVE WEIGHT ON THEIR MIND AS EXULTANT RETURNS
Being the best horse in the race is seldom enough in Hong Kong’s handicap culture. Being the best handicapped horse is the key to success and Tony Cruz and Zac Purton have a weight on their mind as their triple Group 1 hero Exultant makes his eagerly awaited reappearance in Sunday’s Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse.
Exultant lines up as Hong Kong’s champion in two divisions – middle distance and stayer – but his stellar efforts last season mean he has to concede between 6lb and 20lb to a high-class field in the Sha Tin feature.
“The horse is in good heart and his condition is good,” said Cruz. “I believe he’s in better condition than last year but I expect him to be in tip-top shape further on, in the Group 2 in a couple of weeks and then the Hong Kong Vase.”
Purton added: “It’s never easy carrying top-weight in these races and you’ve got some good horses down at the bottom of the weights. He is first-up for the season and it’s 1800m, so you wouldn’t expect him to be at his best. It’ll just come down to the circumstances of the race whether he’s going to have a chance or not.”
RETURNING BADEL HOPING TO DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN
And those circumstances revolve to a fair extent around Exultant’s stablemate Time Warp, who stole the Purse under Purton twelve months ago by dictating steady fractions before fending off younger brother Glorious Forever with stablemate Exultant back in fourth.
The mercurial chestnut finished behind Exultant six times after that and now has the services of French rider Alexis Badel, who is back in Hong Kong for the first day of his now-annual winter stint.
“Time Warp has had two trials and both were good,” said Cruz. “It looks like he’s the only front runner in the race so he’ll go out and do his usual. I hope he can pull it off again.”
But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Time Warp's preparation relates to the nine weeks he spent at the HKJC's training centre at Conghua in Mainland China during the summer and early autumn.
Early evidence suggests that quirky horses benefit more than most from a spell in relaxed surroundings away from the hustle and bustle of Sha Tin and Time Warp returns well treated having dropped to a mark fully 7lb lower than the one he won from twelve months ago.
ALL FRIGHT ON THE NIGHT AS RISPOLI DELIVERS
Umberto Rispoli didn't miss a beat when asked to play the killer clown role in a Halloween prank this week and the resultant video suggests he has a bright future in the horror game once his riding days are over.
The Italian rider has suffered more than most from Joao Moreira's return to freelance status this season but recent signs have been much more positive and he delivered a stylish effort to thread the needle aboard Xiang Bi Qi in the Happy Finale on Wednesday night.
Two of Rispoli's Halloween prank victims - Chad Schofield and Grant Van Niekerk - were also on the mark at the Valley and the latter is now clear fourth in the table after notching his tenth winner of the season aboard Young Glory.