Purton, Starlight steal limelight at Happy Valley

Purton, Starlight steal limelight at Happy Valley
Photo: The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Zac Purton stole the limelight at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (27 September) with a four-timer, and the jockey believes that Starlight is capable of heading higher after making his first appearance in Class 3 a winning one with his Citi Sprint Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m) victory.
 
Dennis Yip-trained Starlight was sent out a heavily-backed 2.5 favourite for the night’s feature. After a perfect speed-tracking run in transit behind a moderate tempo, Purton pulled the Red Element gelding to the centre of the track upon straightening and he pulled clear to record a two-length success.
 
“The race panned out really well for me tonight,” Purton said. “He jumped well and the horses to my inside seemed to dwell a bit so it just opened up a beautiful spot for him in behind the speed on the fence. I just wanted to give him a bit of room if I could, he has been better swooping and I was able to do that with nothing on my outside.
 
“When he let go, with no weight on his back and the way he is going, he put them to bed pretty comfortably. There’s no reason why he can’t do it again, he’s racing in really good form.”
 
Starlight has now won three of his last four starts after his trophy win on Wednesday night, twice with Purton in the saddle.
 
It was the third leg of a four-timer for the Australian rider, who took riding honours on a night where Australian culture was celebrated as part of Happy Wednesday’s Boomerang parties.
 
Purton had earlier won the Class 5 Cassia Handicap (1200m) on Richard Gibson’s Kwaichung Brothers and the Class 4 Dianthus Handicap (1650m) aboard Little Island for Manfred Man, while he completed his quartet of winners with Caspar Fownes’ Best Step in the concluding Class 3 Wistaria Handicap (1200m).
 
“It was obviously a good night, I’ve had a lot of horses running well this season but I’ve had a lot of horses finishing second instead of winning and I’ve had a lot of horses look home and they’ve been run down,” he said. “So it was only a matter of time before things clicked and tonight was that night.”
 
Fownes believes that Best Step could become a Hong Kong Airlines Million Challenge contender after the four-year-old returned a winner and scored his first points in the annual series.
 
“He was first-up so I think he’ll come on for that,” Fownes said after the Cecconi gelding made all to hold Charity Glory by a neck. “He’s a dude of a horse, he’s such a gentleman. I think he’s an ideal Valley horse, in my mind I had the Million Challenge as a prospect for him but he’s going to have to step it up a notch after that. Hopefully he can do that.”
 
Racing returns to Sha Tin on Sunday (1 October), where the first stakes races of the season – the G3 National Day Cup (1000m) and G3 Celebration Cup (1400m) – headline the 10-event card. The first race is scheduled for 12.45pm.
Callan, Lee hit scoreboard with first wins for season
 
Wednesday night’s (27 September) Happy Valley card marked a milestone for rider Neil Callan, who found the winners’ circle for the first time this season aboard Chris So-trained Junzi.
 
“I told you all not to panic! Go with the flow,” the Irishman quipped as he returned aboard Junzi, a length and a quarter winner of the Class 4 Osmanthus Handicap (1000m).
 
The five-year-old won his first race of last season over the Happy Valley 1000m, but didn’t get closer than sixth in seven subsequent starts last term, and So said that fresh is likely best for the son of Red Giant.
 
“He is quite a small horse and he doesn’t hold his condition easily, he lightens off after he races,” So said. “So I think we’ll space his runs out. Also, he didn’t have much space to move with his rating last season, but off a rating of 48, he was going to be competitive.”
 
Callan was not the only person to score a first win for the term, with trainer Almond Lee becoming the final handler to get on the board this season.
 
Lee won with 55/1 shot Le Pegase in the Class 5 Magnolia Handicap (1650m), Keith Yeung producing a stellar ride to get the lowly-rated galloper home by a neck.
 
Earlier, trainer Paul O’Sullivan was relieved to get a win from Diamond Legend, who scored his first Hong Kong win at start 11 under Sam Clipperton in the Class 4 Begonia Handicap (1200m).
 
The blueblood, by More Than Ready out of Group 1 winner Aqua d’Amore, had won two of his three starts in New Zealand but had struggled to adapt to Hong Kong life since his arrival in March, 2016.
 
“He’s a nice horse now, but he took a long time to acclimatise – he was very disappointing when he first arrived,” O’Sullivan said. “The owners have been very patient. He started to come around last season though, his last run was good and his trial was solid. My only concern today was the barrier (11), but that didn’t end up being an issue as he went back and there was pace on.
 
“I don’t think the field today was too strong, but I think he’s the sort of horse who will hold his own up in Class 3. He’s a fair way down at the moment and he’s still developing but in time, he’ll get there.”
 
Apprentice Matthew Poon also continued his strong start to the season with a win aboard Ricky Yiu’s Outlawed in the Class 3 Verbena Handicap (1650m).
 

Racing returns to Sha Tin on Sunday (1 October), where the first stakes races of the season – the G3 National Day Cup (1000m) and G3 Celebration Cup (1400m) – headline the 10-event card. The first race is scheduled for 12.45pm.

Source: The Hong Kong Jockey Club

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