The Australian opens up his lead at the top of the jockeys’ premiership but it’s not all plain sailing for the 38-year-old, who is hit with a suspension
Zac Purton continued his electric start to the season with a treble at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, moving to 11 victories after six meetings with his biggest haul of the campaign.
Purton, who has ridden at least one winner on every card so far this season, saluted aboard Red Majesty, All Beauty and Harmony N Blessed but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the 38-year-old, who was hit with a two-meeting suspension for careless riding aboard Ka Ying Spirit.
A master of the tight-turning city circuit, Purton’s three-timer was his first at the iconic track since April and saw him pull three victories clear of Joao Moreira in the early stages of the fight for the jockeys’ championship.
“It helps, hopefully there’s a six-timer around the corner,” said Purton.
Harmony N Blessed was the headline act of Purton’s treble, with the David Hayes-trained five-year-old shaving 0.11 of a second off Dancing Fighter’s track record on his way to victory in the Class Three Clementi Handicap (1,000m).
“Just being able to let him roll, he really enjoyed it. He let down really nice. He’s always shown he’s been talented but he beats himself more times than not. He just wants to fight the riders all of the time,” Purton said of Harmony N Blessed, who stopped the clock at 55.98 seconds.
After two wins to start his career, Harmony N Blessed couldn’t deliver in six further starts last season but it all came together on Wednesday night, with Purton winning a battle for the lead from gate three after an early tussle with Jerry Chau Chun-lok aboard Harmony Fire.
“Jerry made me earn it early, we were rolling and he just kept sneaking up underneath me. Obviously he wanted to make me work, which was to his detriment, but I think it helped my horse because you don’t want to fight him,” he said.
Harmony N Blessed finished two and a quarter lengths clear of runner-up Heart Conquered, prompting Hayes to set his sights on the DBS x Manulife Million Challenge – which sees runners accrue points in all Happy Valley races in Class Three or above until February 23.
“He looked very promising last year, he was just a bit immature – consistent but immature. This year he’s stronger, he’s eating better and I think we’ve got a very good Happy Valley horse,” Hayes said.
“I keep seeing that sign there for the Million Challenge so we’ll make him the Happy Valley horse I think. There’s a race in about three weeks and we’ll be back.”
Purton and Hayes also combined with Red Majesty – who has won four of his past five starts – and the pair now has four winners from seven attempts this season at a strike rate of 57 per cent.
Elsewhere on the card, Benno Yung Tin-pang snared his first success of 2021-22 thanks to All Joyful’s victory under Matthew Chadwick in the Class Five Price Handicap (1,650m), with the son of Shocking dropping into the cellar grade for the first time at start nine.
“He’s just a late maturer, he’s a staying type so he’s taken a bit of time to acclimatise. I think he can also handle Class Four, at the end of last season he started to come along so I think he will keep improving,” Yung said.
Moreira had to settle for one win on the night, saluting aboard the Caspar Fownes-trained Fast Pace in the Class Four Perkins Handicap (1,800m), while Luke Ferraris delivered aboard Seven Heavens in the Class Three Cooper Handicap (1,200m) to give Fownes a double.
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