He thought he had the ride on Normcore tied away weeks ago but in the end Zac Purton had to rely on Christophe Soumillon’s misfortune to secure the mount on the Japanese raider for the Group One Hong Kong Cup.
Purton was in line to partner the five-year-old until it was announced Soumillon had landed a short-term Hong Kong contract beginning on international day.
Everything changed again on Thursday, with the star Australian catapulted back into the frame when Soumillon was ruled out of the Hong Kong International Races after a Covid-19 testing irregularity while in quarantine.
“I thought I was on it but they gave it to him, but that’s the way it goes,” Purton said. “It’s our biggest race so it’s nice to have a ride in it.”
Normcore enters the HK$28 million contest after finishing back in the field behind Lucky Lilac in the Group One Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2,200m) at Hanshin last month.
“It’s a small field and we’ve drawn a nice gate, so she’ll get her chance,” Purton said of the mare, who finished fourth in the Hong Kong Mile a year ago.
“Magical is obviously a very good mare, she’s proven herself all around the world and she’s got a good gate – she’s clearly the one to beat.
“Win Bright loves Sha Tin, he seems to grow a leg when he comes here so it’s good to see him back.”
Purton wasn’t the only jockey to receive a bonus thanks to Soumillon’s unavailability, with Ryan Moore picking up the prized ride on defending Mile champion Admire Mars, Alexis Badel landing Computer Patch in the Sprint and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu snaring Vase outsider Ho Ho Khan.
Computer Patch has strung together three solid performances at Group level in the build-up and will be looking to topple favourite Classique Legend and leading local hope Hot King Prawn.
“He’s obviously in very good form, he has proven this season that he’s very competitive and it’s a good surprise not to be free in this race,” Badel said. “It’s better than being in the jockeys’ room.”
Ho has been aboard Ho Ho Khan for all four of his Hong Kong wins and partnered the six-year-old to fifth in the Group Three Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (1,800m) last month.
“It’s good to be back on him. [Two is] a good draw, he’s fit and his form is good, so it’s a nice ride,” Ho said.