Racing

Purton Simply Brilliant with five-timer

Australian closing in on Moreira in HK title quest

Zac Purton started as he meant to go on at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, displaying aggression, poise and rhythmic strength to win the Class 5 opener.

He followed that with a barnstorming late-card four-timer to earn five on the day, and with it, impetus in his long, understated challenge for this season's champion jockey's title.

The haul matched the Australian's five-win mark at the track on May 13 last year.

"It's not a bad day," said Purton, with an almost-grin and feigned indifference, after his fifth victory on the aptly named Simply Brilliant.

That score came in the Class 2 Sapphire Handicap over 1,600m and was achieved at the expense of his prime rival, champion jockey Joao Moreira.

Purton's mount responded to every urging in the closing exchange, the son of Frankel edging out the Moreira-ridden Easy Go Easy Win by a neck.

"He's been a difficult horse, hanging in his races and doing things wrong, and he was still quite keen for the first five or six hundred metres today," said Purton of Simply Brilliant.

"Once he relaxed, he got into a nice rhythm and I really like the way he fought, he just kept sticking his head out to the line.

"He's bred to get a bit further but he doesn't have the brain for it at the moment. He's a lightly framed horse and I think maybe next season, he could furnish and step up a little bit more."

The British import, sixth in the Britannia Handicap over 1,600m at Royal Ascot last term, gave trainer Frankie Lor a second win for the afternoon.

The handler provided Moreira with a win, too, aboard Right Call. Lor, like most, is a big fan of both riders.

"Some owners like to have great jockeys riding their horses, so I try to get Zac and Joao whenever I can, I like using them both but it's not easy to get them," he said.

With 30 meetings remaining in Hong Kong's 88-card campaign, Purton knows that there is a long road still ahead in his tussle with premiership leader and three-time champion Moreira, the man who usurped him as champion in 2015.

With the Brazilian ace kicking home two winners on Sunday, Purton drew to within six of the premiership leader. But Lor pointed out one factor that makes Purton's title attempt a tough challenge.

"Zac cannot ride light," he said. Moreira, though, can.

Purton kicked off Sunday's action aboard the Manfred Man-trained Ever Strong. That came on the dirt track and the rider went on to take all three races on the inner circuit - on Elite Boy, Perpetual Treasure and Baltic Whisper - before wrapping up with Simply Brilliant. - HKJC

HORSE RACING