Purton grabs both Group races

His four-timer includes the Group 1 Champions & Chater Cup and the Group 3 Sha Tin Vase

The premiership-duelling pair of Zac Purton and Joao Moreira squared off again with four winners apiece at Sha Tin on Sunday to finish level at 123 winners, but it was Purton who grabbed the premium chocolates.

The Australian's four-timer included the HK$10 million (S$1.83 million) Group 1 Champions & Chater Cup over 2,400m aboard Exultant and the HK$3.25 million Group 3 Sha Tin Vase over 1,200m on Thanks Forever.

There was some drama with Purton banging his head against the starting gate before Race 7, as his mount, Fast Pace, reared. The horse then kicked out before getting its head down and forcing its way out under the front gates, riderless.

The horse galloped for a short distance before being recaptured. It was withdrawn on veterinary advice.

Purton was examined by the chief medical officer and was passed fit to fulfil his remaining engagements.

That was not all. He was dislodged in the penultimate contest when his mount, Regency Bo Bo, stumbled badly on jumping. Again he was examined and passed fit to ride in the final event, in which he finished third on Happy Fun.

"The (Hong Kong Jockey) Club was worried, I wasn't," said Purton, who also took the first two races on Like That and Armor Star respectively.

Moreira was successful on Enjoy Life (Race 3), Good Luck Friend (Race 5), Scores Of Fun (Race 6) and Defining Moment (Race 9).

The Tony Cruz-trained Exultant had only six rivals to contend with in the Champions & Chater Cup - and the field came from only two stables.

Cruz had two other runners, while John Moore fielded the other four.

Last-start Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup-winning Exultant was sent off as the 1.5 favourite to repeat his win of 12 months ago.

Although the margin was a neat length from Moore's Chefano, Purton noted "it's never easy in small fields when you're on the favourite".

"Everyone goes out there to make your life difficult and they tried to do that again today. But, fortunately, I was on a horse that was able to absorb some pressure and still be able to fight out a finish," he said.

Purton also reckoned the Moore-trained Thanks Forever deserved his victory in the Sha Tin Vase.

"He's been racing well this season," said Purton, after the four-year-old had clocked 1min 08.96sec in battling past the front-running Hot King Prawn and Big Party by a neck and a short head.

"It was a race he really had to win from that gate (2) with that weight (57.7kg). The speed early was really slow and then they made it a good sprint home, so he had to chase hard and he did it well."

Thanks Forever earned his fifth win at his 16th start off the back of high-class efforts this term, notably top-three placings in the Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup over 1,200m and last month's Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize over 1,200m.

Moore also felt Thanks Forever deserved the win.

"He's been a model of consistency without winning one of the black-type races," he said, adding that the Duporth gelding will now be aimed at next month's Group 3 Premier Cup over 1,400m.