Eagle Way’s swift swoop grabbed the Group 3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) on Wednesday night (10 January) and denied The Golden Age a Happy Valley hat-trick.
The talented five-year-old delivered a decisive home straight spurt that carried jockey Zac Purton to a three-quarter-length score in a time of 1m 50.14s – his final 400m was the fastest of all at 22.12s.
Trainer John Moore, absent tonight, has nursed the More Than Ready gelding back from a lung infection that clouded preparations into December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m), in which the chestnut finished eighth.
Eagle Way defies top-weight to win the G3 January Cup under Zac Purton
“I galloped him recently and he gave me a good feel – he was clean in his wind and I said to John he was going well, so it was no surprise to see him come out and do that tonight,” said Purton, a first-time race partner this evening.
Eagle Way won the 2016 G1 Queensland Derby (2400m) pre-import and his form in the higher grades meant that the galloper shouldered 133lb to land Happy Valley’s only Pattern race.
“Carrying top-weight in a Group 3 race in Hong Kong is extremely hard to do, so I had that in the back of my mind but he jumped well, we had a lovely run and he showed a really good turn-of-foot,” Purton said of the 9.1 chance, successful in last season’s G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) at Sha Tin.
Moore has won the January Cup four times in the past six seasons. Eagle Way follows Harbour Master (2017), Same World (2014) and subsequent G1 winner Military Attack (2013).
The Tony Cruz-trained The Golden Age (118lb) remains on track for the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) after failing honourably to become the first four-year-old winner of the race since 1999. The front-runner had made all to win his previous two races at the track but was collared late to finish second this time.
“He felt like the winner turning in and he kept on well but Eagle Way has Group 1 form and he showed that class,” said jockey Matthew Chadwick.
The John Size-trained Dinozzo (123lb) was a further neck third under Alexis Badel.
The French rider was on the mark one race later, driving 10/1 hope Winning Faith to a significant victory in the seventh contest for trainer Danny Shum. The Class 3 Cleveland Handicap (1650m) will go down in the record books as the former jockey’s 500th score as a trainer.
Shum attributed his achievement to the love of a beautiful woman.
“I try very hard myself and I have a beautiful, helpful and supportive wife, and a family and stable staff that help me a lot,” he said.
Champion trainer John Size earned a double. The Brett Prebble-ridden Money Boy (8.6) took the Class 3 over 1000m, while the Class 2 1200m finale went to Perpetual Joyance (6.6) under Olivier Doleuze.
Neil Callan teamed with old ally Ricky Yiu to take race three, the Class 4 Great George Handicap (1200m), with Spring Win, a 3/1 shot.
Champion jockey Joao Moreira snared a treble, kicking off with an early brace thanks to the Paul O’Sullivan-trained 4.1 chance Actuariat in the Class 5 opener over 1000m and the 2.9 favourite Exceptional Desire in the second race, a Class 4 1200m event. The latter was trainer Chris So’s first win since the same rider guided Fairy Twins to victory at the track on 6 December.
Moreira completed his treble with a win of significance aboard Contribution.