By David Morgan
Winner’s Way capped tonight’s (Wednesday, 12 April) action at Happy Valley with an impressive all-the-way win in the Class 2 Lion City Handicap (1650m), a performance that gave a conspicuous nod to Rapper Dragon’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series form.
Zac Purton fired the Starcraft gelding from gate nine and the chestnut readily secured the lead, enabling the Australian hoop to dictate the tempo to his 11 rivals. And when the challengers began to press on the final turn, Winner’s Way (127lb) responded with a sustained burst that left his nearest pursuer, runner-up Jolly Banner (133lb), three and a half-lengths adrift at the line.
“He jumped today, which was a big asset because it was his first time around here and I could tell going to the start that he was quite lost. Getting out in front, it helped him to be a little more comfortable,” Purton said of Tony Cruz’s charge, whose seven previous Hong Kong starts featured a brace of 1400m wins at Sha Tin, as well as a fourth place behind Rapper Dragon in January’s Hong Kong Classic Mile.
“He got around the track ok, he didn’t get around it great, he was getting off on the corners a little bit and he didn’t change his leg for a way into the straight, but when I asked him for an effort it was there, it was a good win. I think he’s still learning. I think there’s more in store for him,” the former champion jockey said.
Cruz was delighted with the import, who won two of three starts in Australia for trainer Patrick Payne before his arrival at Sha Tin in August.
“We’ll stick to mile races with him,” Cruz said. “He looks a genuine miler to me, I don’t think he’d be effective over further than that. Whatever’s in the programme for him at a mile, we’ll look at that and see how far he can go.”
The 3.5 favourite finished inside standard at 1m 39.28s, his closing spilt of 23.46s was bettered only by third-placed Super Turbo (23.28s).
That front-running exhibition from Purton in the last came after the jockey had delivered a master-class of patient jockeyship in the Class 3 Singapore Turf Club Trophy, one of two cup races on the card at the city track tonight. The Australian ace delivered the David Hall-trained Andoyas (131lb) deep in the home stretch to win the feature by a neck.
The contest’s 2200m distance is the maximum at the Valley and Andoyas is fast gaining a reputation as the circuit’s “marathon man”. The six-year-old Lando gelding has notched two wins at the course and distance this term, and, with an 1800m score sandwiched between those verdicts, this evening’s result completed a hat-trick.
“It’s hard to find these sorts of races for him, there aren’t many to run in,” Hall said of the 5.2 favourite. “He gives 100 percent every time he goes out there and he obviously relishes this distance, and also I was never worried about that little bit of cushion in the track tonight after today’s rain, that was always going to be a bonus.
“He’s a good, tough little competitor, and I have to say it was one hell of a ride – a great ride from a very good jockey.”
After anchoring Andoyas second-last, Purton waited until the 600m mark before he began to make a creeping, forward move. Shifted to centre track upon straightening,Andoyas responded to his rider’s strong drive, leading with 60m remaining, all the while holding the attempted last-to-first surge of runner-up Happy Contender (123lb). The margin was a neck, the winning time 2m 17.12s – a shade inside standard.
“We had a lovely run,” Purton said “I was just biding my time, letting everyone else make their moves; just fiddled my way through the field and I was always confident I was going to get there, and I always felt I was holding the second horse.
“One of the problems for some of these horses here in Hong Kong is that races just aren’t long enough for them, but fortunately this season the programme has been there to allow him to run in a couple of these races when he’s been in form and he’s been able to do a good job.”
Fine win for Ng
The night’s other trophy race, the Class 4 Indian Recreation Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m), went to the Francis Lui-trained Fine With Me, a 28/1 chance. The four-year-old Starcraft gelding had raced 10 times across three seasons without success, but apprentice Alvin Ng’s mount made the most of a featherweight 109lb, a return to 1200m, and a first visit to the Valley.
“He didn’t jump too well,” Ng said. “I was a bit worried because I was back in the field following a slow horse in front of me but, luckily, on the turn I was able to get out, find clear running, and he ran in a straight line to catch them.”
Fine With Me clocked 1m 10.54s as he swept past runner-up Game Of Fun (133lb) to score by three quarters of a length, with Silver Spun (132lb) a nose away in third.
“He showed there that he has the pace for 1200 (metres) but I think up to 1600 is ok,” Ng added. “When he ran at 1600 last time he was in a handy position and he still finished his race.”
Douglas Whyte notched a double thanks to the Chris So-trained Prince Harmony in the Class 4 Bukit Timah Handicap (1200m) and the Manfred Man-trained Healthy Luck in section one of the Class 3 Merlion Handicap (1200m).
Apprentice Dylan Mo is enjoying a good spell of form and registered his fifth win from the last five race meetings with victory in the opener, the Class 5 Changi Handicap (1000m) atop the Me Tsui-trained Oriental Fantasia.
The John Size-trained four-year-old Perpetual Joyance made it three wins from his last four starts, each under Karis Teetan, when taking out section two of the Class 3 Merlion Handicap (1200m), while Caspar Fownes and Vincent Ho teamed up to win the Class 4 Kranji Handicap (1650m) with Formula Galore.
Hong Kong racing resumes at Sha Tin on 17 April for an Easter Monday holiday card.
Winner��s Way makes all to win the finale under Zac Purton.
Purton drives Andoyas (far-side) to a neck win over Happy Contender in the Singapore Turf Club Trophy.
Fine With Me wins the Indian Recreation Club Challenge Cup under Alvin Ng.