By Andrew Hawkins
It has taken time for Litterateur to come to hand in Hong Kong, but after breaking through with a barnstorming last-to-first win at Happy Valley earlier this month, jockey Zac Purton believes the galloper is capable of going back-to-back in Wednesday night’s (24 May) Class 3 Sauternes Cup Handicap (1650m) at the city track.
“It was a solid effort last time out, definitely,” Purton said at the Sha Tin trials on Tuesday morning (23 May). “He had put the writing on the wall at his previous start. He’s wrapped his head around Hong Kong racing now and he seems to be racing well.”
Richard Gibson-trained Litterateur had shown very little in his first seven starts, never finishing closer than 10th over a variety of tracks, surfaces and distances. However, his maiden attempt at the Happy Valley 1650m in April produced a fast-finishing third, which proved a portent of things to come.
The Lope De Vega gelding drew awkwardly in gate 12 at his last start on 3 May, forcing Purton to restrain to last in what was a slowly-run affair. However, he rattled off a final sectional of 22.10s – the fastest of the night and a full three-quarters of a second slicker than any other runner in that race – to scorch home for a head success.
“He’s put two good runs together now, so there’s no reason why he’s not going to go out and do it again,” Purton said. “I think he’s shown at his last two starts that if you just leave him alone early in the race, he’s going to give you something at the end so I won’t be going out there to change anything, even with a better gate.”
Litterateur arrived in Hong Kong from France in October 2015, having won three of his five starts between 1500m and 1900m for trainer Andre Fabre when named Meteoric, and Purton believes he may find his future over further than Wednesday night’s 1650m.
“I think the 1650m is his minimum and I think 1800m is probably his best distance,” the Australian rider said. “Maybe he’ll even get 2000m as time goes on. He just needs a gallop, being a backmarker, and if he gets that he’s always going to be competitive I think.”
Litterateur faces nine rivals, seven of whom have won at the Happy Valley 1650m. These include Peter Ho’s Ten Flames, Danny Shum-trained Unicorn, Giant Turtle for Tony Millard and The Sylph, who gets Joao Moreira aboard for the first time since November.
Size’s Diego Kosta hunts for another goal
A race later, the Class 3 Tai Shing Stream Handicap (1000m) sees Purton reunite with another galloper who impressed under the jockey at the 3 May meeting.
John Size-trained Diego Kosta raced clear for a three and a half length victory with Purton in the plate last start at what was just the Charge Forward gelding’s second attempt at the Happy Valley 1000m. However, the rider said it was a case of the pieces falling into place for the four-year-old that day.
“He had everything to suit last time,” Purton said. “He had an inside draw, he began very well, he lobbed in behind a nice speed, he came off their backs and then put them away. It was very straightforward. It’s going to be a little bit harder this time, though – obviously he’s up in the ratings, he’s drawn a little more awkwardly so he’s going to have to do more work.
“He’s a horse that, if the circumstances permit, he will show his best. He’s in good form and he should run well again.”
Diego Kosta had 20 starts prior to his win last time for two victories over the Sha Tin 1200m – a Class 4 restricted to three-year-olds in November 2015, and a Class 3 in February 2016. Purton admitted to being surprised by the ease of his last start victory, for which he rose 10 ratings points to a new career high of 79.
“That’s the funny thing, we’ve seen him many times now and he’s never looked like winning like he did there,” he said. “He’s been here for a few seasons and he’s had a lot of racing but it was just a matter of getting the right circumstances. You don’t often get things to fall into place for you like that two times in a row so it’s not going to be easy. Hopefully he’s taken a bit of confidence out of the win – sometimes, when they do that, they can switch on a little bit more.”
One of Diego Kosta’s main rivals is Tony Cruz-trained Circuit King. The four-year-old was beaten four lengths by Diego Kosta last start after drawing gate 12, but he does get a better draw in barrier five and he does meet Diego Kosta 10 pounds better at the weights. Moreira, who won on the High Chaparral gelding in March, is in the saddle again.
“You would think he can win here if you look deep into his form,” Moreira said. “After he won with me in Class 4, he went back into Class 3 and he ran very well. Under normal circumstances, if he runs to his best, he will be a very strong chance.”
Moreira feels that, while the horse sees out 1200m, his best trip is the shorter 1000m that he tackles on Wednesday night: “He’s a 1000m horse I feel. His best has come at that trip, at least for me. I hope he runs a good race.”
Also tackling the Tai Shing Stream Handicap are Danny Shum’s Most Beautiful, No Money No Talk for David Hall, Benno Yung-trained Happy Cooperation and Flying Monkey, one of two runners for Chris So.
The Class 3 event is scheduled to jump at 10:15pm as the seventh of eight races, with the opener, the Class 5 Ho Chung River Handicap (1650m), set to begin the card at 7:15pm.
Litterateur (No. 4) scores a last-to-first win at Happy Valley last start.
Diego Kosta lands an easy win in the Victoria Racing Club Trophy latest.