Purton power lights up the Valley
“Luck takes you a long way in Hong Kong.” That man Purton is too savvy to big-note himself in the media but it’s clear there was a lot more than luck involved as he reflected on taking out half of Wednesday’s Valley card. True, he was helped by a series of low draws and Harmony N Home and Alpha Hedge capitalised with routine on-pace successes, but British imports Melbourne Hall and Guy Dragon both blossomed under precision handling and the Aussie’s Valley stats over the last twelve months are something to behold.
Outscoring Joao Moreira by 62-36 at the Valley last season played a massive part in his third title success. But it’s less well known that Purton has now ridden at least one winner - and often three, four or even five on one occasion – at 33 of the last 34 Valley fixtures dating back to this time last year. “I think we should move all meetings to the Valley,” he joked. “I would have been happy to get a couple of winners at the start of the week so to get six in two meetings is a great start.”
Star to shine in finale
Purton's presence on a horse for the first time is usually significant, especially if the beast in question has plenty of ability but is prone to using valuable energy earlier than ideal. Step forward Star Of Yuen Long, who links up with the champ for the first time in a race in Sunday's concluding King's Park Handicap at 10.45.
This Makfi gelding failed to place in five attempts after a decisive December win but caught the eye more than once, especially when fourth over course and distance in July. Star Of Yuen Long paid for going too hard that day, finding no extra having charged through the first 600m in a fiery 34.5s, and it's to his credit that he was only run down in the dying strides.
Purton got to know his new partner in an encouraging trial recently. Add in the fact that he could get a much easier time on the pace here and he has all the makings of a very interesting horse.
Lockheed still searching for take-off as transfer market heats up
You pay your money and take your chance in any transfer market and the Hong Kong equine import business is no exception. Take Exultant and Lockheed as cases in point. Both took up residence at Sha Tin in September 2017 with expensive price tags and smart European form to their credit - but that’s where the comparisons end.
Exultant has gone from strength to strength for Tony Cruz – notching eleven wins including five at Group 1 level and over £7m in prize money – while Lockheed will be chasing a first Hong Kong success under Purton at the 23rd attempt under Purton in Sunday’s 9.35; having cost £900,000 out of the Haggas stable.
The exciting Sky Field looks a major obstacle to Lockheed's elusive first win but Hong Kong owners have been on the hunt for potential stars again in Europe and the latest batch of new recruits flying in this weekend contains some very familiar names.
Tango's new team aiming for the big dance
Aidan O’Brien’s Royal Ascot winner Russian Emperoris among this weekend’s travellers, along with G1-placed stablemate Arthur's Kingdom, Prix Jean Prat third Malotru and French Guineas and Derby runner-up The Summit.
But there’s no shortage of potential among Euro imports already on the grounds at Sha Tin, including Berlin Tango and Packing Waltham. Berlin Tango was sold and swiftly gelded after catching the eye travelling strongly when third in Russian Emperor’s Hampton Court Stakes – the race Exultant used as his Hong Kong springboard – and appeals as the sort to make a name for himself having joined Tony Cruz.
French recruit Packing Waltham thrived when known simply as Waltham during his days with Christophe Ferland, bolting up in a Chantilly Listed All-Weather race under Soumillon in March, and has also joined Cruz. Both horses have almost certainly been bought with next year’s Hong Kong Derby in mind, though Packing Waltham may well need time to acclimatise after getting tired in his first barrier trial on Friday morning.
Gibson going for Gold after Valley frustrations
Richard Gibson endured what might best be described as a character building Wednesday at the Valley as two former pupils – Wins All and Faithful Trinity – saluted having moved to Chris So during the summer. But Hong Kong racing’s sole British handler knows the value of resilience and has a chance to bounce back at a higher level when smart sprinter Gold Chest contests Sunday’s Class 2 Ho Man Tin Handicap at 10.10.
Gold Chest was a Newmarket Listed winner for Jane Chapple-Hyam when known as Naval Intelligence and has more than held his own for Gibson, scoring twice for well over £400,000 in prize money including when swooping late to land a very strong handicap over 6f back in February.
The return to the minimum trip asks a new question but Gold Chest looked in great heart when trialling powerfully over an extended 5f on the All-Weather last week and his powerful finish makes him well worth watching along with the strong-travelling Lucky More.