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Zac Purton confirms Classic Cup ride, Alberto Sanna to partner Russian Emperor in Qatar

Reigning champion jockey jumps back aboard the John Size-trained Tuchel for the second leg of the four-year-old series

Zac Purton will ride Classic Mile runner-up Tuchel in next month’s Classic Cup.

Tuchel finished a length and a quarter behind winner Voyage Bubble under Luke Currie at Sha Tin on Sunday, with Purton a further length and a half behind in third aboard Packing Treadmill in a slowly run race in which the victor led throughout.

Connections have confirmed Packing Treadmill will not be stretched out to the 1,800m of the Classic Cup on February 26 and Purton is hopeful there is more to come from the John Size-trained Tuchel, a galloper he has piloted to three of his four career successes.

“It’s a hard race to assess, that one from the weekend. Basically, the first four in the run dominated the race really. Obviously, Keefy dropped out, but it was a very much on-pace dominated race,” Purton said about the Classic Mile.

“Nothing from behind fifth was able to get into it, so the form might be a little bit misleading out of it.

“Tuchel was in the right spot. He was given a beautiful ride and he had his chance, but he was on the quick backup. Maybe with a little bit more time between runs he might have a little bit more there.

Qatar trip could provide ‘a bit of a spark up’ for Whyte’s Russian Emperor

“He’s as good a chance as anything. I still think it’s an open race and barrier draws, track bias – all those things – are going to decide the winner.”

Another galloper who will have a new jockey for his next assignment is the Douglas Whyte-trained Russian Emperor, with the South African handler engaging Italian rider Alberto Sanna to partner his two-time Group One winner in the H.H. The Amir Trophy (2,400m) at Qatar’s Al Rayyan Racecourse on February 18.

he Qatar-based Sanna is familiar to Hong Kong punters after riding 34 winners in the city from 2017 to 2019, including five for Whyte.

Sanna replaces another jockey who has spent extended periods in Qatar in Harry Bentley, who partnered Russian Emperor into sixth behind star trio Golden Sixty, Romantic Warrior and California Spangle in Sunday’s Group One Stewards’ Cup (1,600m).

“I’m happy with the run. Obviously, it was a tactical race and the first three ended up in the first three, but he’s pulled up well and at this stage we’re going to Qatar,” Whyte said, adding that Russian Emperor is likely to depart Hong Kong on February 9 or 10.

Closer to home, Whyte is hoping King Eccellente can make it three wins on the trot under Karis Teetan in the Class Four Stubbs Handicap (1,200m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.

“He’s really hit his straps the last three months. He hasn’t got the best of gates to contend with, but the horse himself remains in good order,” Whyte said.

“I would say he’s held his form. It’s difficult to say whether he’s improved. He’d have to lift his game [to win again], but the horse really is healthy and he’s working well.

“Gate nine isn’t going to help, but Karis knows him well and he’s a big enough horse to offset the weight. He’s going to need an ounce of luck from there, and hopefully, Karis can get him somewhat comfortable in the running.”

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