No stopping Purton the Legend
HK champion jockey follows up on Southern Legend's Kranji Mile victory with Exultant in Group 1 Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin
Fresh from his $1.5 million Kranji Mile victory on Southern Legend on Saturday, jockey Zac Purton steered Exultant to land the HK$10 million ($1.75 million) Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup over 2,400m at Sha Tin on Sunday.
It was the man-of-the-moment's seventh Group 1 win in a Hong Kong season, one more than the six Joao Moreira achieved in 2014/15.
Exultant's success was Purton's fourth in a sparkling six-timer on Sunday that included the Group 3 Sha Tin Vase over 1,200m on the David Hall-trained Little Giant.
And it could have been a magnificent Purton seven had Fast Most Furious not failed by a nose in the finale.
"It's been a nice day, I can't complain," said Hong Kong's champion jockey.
Exultant's win - an equal blend of guts and class from the Tony Cruz-trained gelding- took Purton's season's tally in Hong Kong to 130. He ended proceedings on 132, just four shy of his all-time best.
"Exultant was all heart today," said the Australian rider.
"He pulled in the run, which he hasn't done for quite some time, and he was gone at the 600m.
"But his big heart just continued to carry him to the finish line. It was a good, tough, strong effort from a horse that hasn't let us down.
"He's been great all season. That's credit to the horse and Tony."
The 1.5 favourite settled fourth of nine runners behind front-running stablemate Time Warp and was under the pump on the final turn.
Purton shifted his mount to a four-wide track at the top of the home straight as last year's winner Pakistan Star edged out and quickened past to a narrow lead.
But Exultant dug deep for his rider and, when Pakistan Star hit his limit inside the 200m mark, the Irish import just kept on galloping to register his third Group 1 score this term.
The latest win has all but bagged the end-of-season Champion Stayer title for Exultant.
"He's our best stayer and he showed that again today," said Purton.
Pakistan Star faded to fourth as the Caspar Fownes-trained Rise High ran a career-best second and the Frankie Lor-trained Dark Dream chased from deep to claim third.
Cruz, who began training in 1996, had to wait until 2013 to saddle a Champions & Chater Cup winner. Sunday's success was his sixth in the historic race.
Trainer, jockey and owners Eddie Wong and Wong Leung Sau Hing had been keen to travel to Japan for the five-year-old's proposed next start in the Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen at the end of next month.
But the connections have decided to abort the plan.
"He wasn't very comfortable on the going. I think he's better on good to firm, and he was running a bit freely today," said Cruz.
"It's a short run-in at Hanshin and the going is almost always on a soft track, so with those things in mind, we'll give him a break.
"Next season, maybe the trip is Dubai. That's the race we have in our calendar if we do decide to travel him."
Purton kicked off the day with an impressive win on Aethero, trainer John Moore's exciting juvenile.
While the jockeys' premiership is all but done and dusted, Moore did all he could to set the trainers' title race on fire.
Hong Kong's seven-time champion charged up and grabbed a fistful of defending champion John Size's coat tails.
But the latter pocketed three wins of his own to shake him off and hold a 67-60 lead at end of play. - HKJC
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