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Jamie Richards lands first Sha Tin double as Alacrity and Romantic Laos salute under Zac Purton

Rookie Hong Kong trainer Jamie Richards landed his first Sha Tin double on Sunday afternoon and the performances of Alacrity and Romantic Laos left the 33-year-old New Zealander excited about what the future holds.

A Group One winner over 2,000m in Chile pre-import, Alacrity could not quite get up to speed in time to mount an assault on last month’s Hong Kong Derby, but the four-year-old’s victory in the Class Three Tan Shan River Handicap (1,800m) showed he will not be wasting any more time.

“He’s been running very well. He’s an improving horse and things haven’t gone his way,” Richards said from Sydney, where he is attending the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.

“He appreciated the step up in distance today and the time between runs. He’s going to be a handy horse in the back third of the season – just quietly, quietly – and then next season we’re going to have a really nice stayer on our hands. Onwards and upwards in the future for him.

“I’m really pleased to get that one done for Mr Yue [Yun-hing]. He’s obviously a legend among the Hong Kong owners. For him to support the new guy on the scene, for me it’s really humbling that somebody who’s raced so many horses in Hong Kong goes out of their way to support the new guy. I’m thrilled to get a result for him.”

With Zac Purton in the saddle for the first time, Alacrity went back from gate 14 before exploding down the middle of the track in the home straight to mow down rank outsider Young Brilliant in the final 50m.

“He’s had a couple of runs here now, and he’s stepped up to a trip that’s more suitable,” Purton said. “The speed was nice and then he just did the rest. I thought he was pretty soft on the line, so he’s got more there.”

Richards’ other winner came four races earlier, with HK$4.8 million Hong Kong International Sale graduate Romantic Laos also enjoying teaming up with Purton for the first time.

After showing gradual improvement through a moderate start to his career, Romantic Laos springboarded off a last-start seventh to post an impressive two-and-a-half-length victory over D Star.

“He showed early on in his trials that there was something here, but he just needed a few runs, and he needed to get up to a distance that was going to be suitable for him. He kills himself on race day – he sweats, he jig jogs, he carries on. He needs to learn to accept it a bit better. He’s getting better. He’s going the right way,” Purton said.

Like Alacrity, Richards hopes Romantic Laos can fly the flag for his stable for many seasons to come.

“He was a very expensive ISG horse, and to be supported with two quality horses like that makes our job a lot easier. The team at home are working really hard, and we’re hoping that we can keep the momentum up,” he said after moving to 23 wins for the campaign.

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