Zac Purton logged a double at Sha Tin on Sunday and while he is committed to Danny Shum’s Packing Victory he was effusive in his praise of Tony Cruz’s California Spangle, who dominated the Class 2 Chak On Handicap (1200m) to forge into calculations for the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) on Sunday, 30 January.
“He’s a special horse. He’s got the action and I think he’s got the pedigree to be able to run a mile, but whether he can jump straight from 1200 metres to 1600 metres, that’s the question mark,” the Australian said.
“The other horses have already had their runs at 1400m and 1600m. First time out at 1600m, he might be a little bit vulnerable. I think he’s a really exciting horse – I really like him.”
The final three races of the meeting served as an appetiser to the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, which also features the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on 27 February and the HK$24 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on 20 March.
On Sunday’s undercard, Caspar Fownes notched his fourth victory for the month when The Hulk stormed from last at the turn to win the Class 3 Cheung Sha Wan Handicap (1200m) under Karis Teetan to give the reigning champion trainer an early double.
Formerly known as Spirits Aubeer when a three-time winner in New Zealand for Nigel Tiley, The Hulk improved his Hong Kong record to three victories and five placings from 33 starts.
Teetan sealed a brace when Romantic Combo surged late to clinch the Class 3 Nam Shan Handicap (1800m, dirt) for Danny Shum after Moreira opened his account in emphatic style when Fownes-trained El Valiente cruised to victory in the Class 5 Un Chau Handicap (1650m, dirt).
Purton prevailed aboard Francis Lui’s Golden Empire in the Class 4 Pak Tin Handicap (1200m). Lui believes the Hong Kong International Sale graduate will improve with racing.
“He’s a nice horse, he did a good job today. Zac thinks he will get better as he gets older and he might be 1400 metres next season,” Lui said.
En Pointe and Joao Moreira, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Joao Moreira registered his 60th victory of the campaign when Frankie Lor’s En Pointe stamped his authority on the Class 4 Shek Kip Mei Handicap (1400m). Lor, who leads the trainers’ championship with 38 wins, believes the Hallowed Crown gelding will ultimately be suited over longer trips.
“I think he’s a nice horse. He was good over 1400 metres today after two runs at 1200m. I think he will get a mile in the future,” Lor said.
Paul O’Sullivan and Vincent Ho broke new ground when Apache Pass upstaged his rivals in the Class 4 Tai Hang Tung Handicap (1650m, dirt), providing the combination with their first victory together.
“Vincent hasn’t had many rides for me, but he rides well, doesn’t he?” O’Sullivan said.
“This horse reacts well on the surface and he taken a while to build fitness and he came up with a good draw (barrier four) and I thought if he ran up to his Conghua trial, he would be competitive.
“The biggest problem he’s faced here is that he was trained in Australia left-handed and he’s really struggled to go right-handed. He’s getting a little bit better all the time, but that could be a limiting factor here in the short and medium term.”
Claiming his 14th winner of the term, Vagner Borges piloted Cordyceps Two to upset victory in the Class 4 So Uk Handicap (1600m) as the Brazilian continued a productive season.
“I’m working hard and it’s paying off,” Borges said. “I love riding in Hong Kong and the horse did a good job to win.” Unplaced in six previous starts, Cordyceps Two saluted at 31-1 for Dennis Yip.
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday