By David Morgan
Diego Kosta (127lb) exploded clear of his 12 rivals to claim the featured Class 3 Victoria Racing Club Trophy (1000m) for a treble-hitting Zac Purton at Happy Valley tonight, Wednesday, 3 May.
Purton enjoyed a dream run on the four-year-old bay, bursting from gate two and easing back to snag a stalking position behind the dueling pace-setters Ocean Roar (116lb) and Circuit King (126lb).
“It all worked out perfectly for him,” Purton said after unleashing the Charge Forward gelding at the top of the home straight for a clear-cut three and a half-length score.
“He got a really good jump so he was straight on the bit travelling comfortably through the middle part. It suited him when they went on a bit; he got into a nice rhythm and when I let him go he exploded nicely.
“It was good to see him do that – the way he was travelling I felt he was going to give me something and when he gave it to me I was happy!” he said of the 5.9 chance.
John Size’s charge clocked 56.96s on a night when every victor passed the winning post inside standard. It was Diego Kosta’s third win at start 21 and his first at Happy Valley, his previous two having been achieved at Sha Tin over 1200m. The Jack Wong-ridden Radiant Steed (116lb) edged a scramble for second place.
That win was the middle leg of a three-timer for Purton who rounded off with a thrilling last-to-first surge on the Richard Gibson-trained Litterateur (122lb) in the last, the Class 3 Tropicbird Handicap (1650m).
“He flew for me!” the former champion said after a kitchen-sink-throwing stretch drive that saw the 9.5 chance fulfill the promise of a last start third at the course and distance.
“He put the writing on the wall last start when he closed off strongly and from the wide gate (12) today we didn’t have much option but to ride him the way I did. He was really relaxed through the first half of the race and I reckon that was the key – just getting him to switch off,” Purton continued.
“I would have liked something to drag me into it coming down the rock but they were stacking up in front of me and I had to wait. When I let him go at the top of the straight, for 100 metres he showed a really good turn-of-foot and then he got his momentum up and ran through the line.
“I always thought I was going to get them,” he added after the Lope De Vega five-year-old had edged a blanket finish by a head from Beauty Love (113lb). The win was Gibson’s 10th of the season.
Purton kicked off his treble in race four, the Class 4 Nightjar Handicap (1000m), in tandem with Best Step (127lb).
Caspar Fownes’ charge showed pace and guts to win at his fourth career start. The three-year-old had to work from gate 10 to snare the lead from the Joao Moreira-ridden favourite Flying Monkey (133lb), but once there, the market’s 3.0 second pick relaxed into a rhythm, and, when pressed, kicked home to win by a length and a quarter in 57.04s.
“Best Step’s just learning and he’s getting there now – that was his fourth run. The draw was definitely awkward but we knew he’d muster and be able to get in a forward position. I wanted him to lead but he had to work hard to get there,” Fownes said.
“He got three pounds for running second last time but I’m hoping he can remain in this class because he is still learning – once they get into Class 3 it’s tough. He’ll be all right, he’ll get 1200 (metres) too.”
Ignition for Rispoli
It has taken time but an early-card double tonight signaled that Umberto Rispoli’s season has found ignition. The Italian rider broke his leg back in November, 11 rides and three meetings into a three-month winter contract.
After returning to action at the end of January he endured a tough spell of 14 meetings and 68 rides without a win before hitting the mark on 19 March. His contract extended, the jockey’s fortunes have been on a gradual incline and tonight’s brace took his tally for the term to five.
Rispoli kicked off the night with an easy length and a half score atop the Dennis Yip-trained Starlight (119lb) in the Class 4 Frigatebird Handicap (1200m).
“He’s improving a lot and he deserved a win. He’s becoming a tough horse now and I think he has another win in him because I won very comfortably,” Rispoli said after the 4.2 chance had quickened off the turn to break his maiden at start 10.
And, two races later, the jockey was smiling again after a driving success on the Peter Ho-trained Massive Power (131lb) in the Class 5 Lyrebird Handicap (1200m). Rispoli began his move at the 700-metre point, punching wide around the field and then battling home to hold the pressing Idyllic Wind (128lb) and Bliss Cartel (119lb) by a neck and the same.
“I was three-wide with cover – he wasn’t that quick from the gate coming from the 1650 (metres) last time. I asked Peter to drop him back to 1200 and I’m very happy that he let me ride him today,” he said of the 18/1 shot.
“I was never worried because some horses got tired on the far corner and the favourites were locked on the inside. That meant that I was in a good position. He actually won well to say it was only a neck.”
Rispoli just missed out on a treble when Travel Datuk (124lb) was a fast-closing second to 5.2 chance Lotus Breeze (127lb) in race seven, the Class 3 Swiftlet Handicap (1200m). Brett Prebble guided the Chris So-trained winner home to a half-length verdict.
The Yip stable took the first two races with My Blessing clinching the second, the Class 5 Heron Handicap (1800m), under a smart ride from 10lb claimer Dylan Mo. Race five, the Class 4 Owl Handicap (1650m), went to the Ricky Yiu-trained King’s Man, ridden by Neil Callan.
Hong Kong racing will resume at Sha Tin on Sunday, 7 May with a Group 1 double-header, featuring the Champions Mile and Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Diego Kosta scores for Zac Purton in the Victoria Racing Club Trophy.
Umberto Rispoli seals a double on Massive Power in the Lyrebird Handicap.