AUSTRALIAN expatriate Zac Purton added another two Group 1 races to his CV on Hong Kong’s biggest day of racing.
Purton rode Aerovelocity to victory in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), which featured Australian horses Takedown and Rebel Dane, and then scored on Beauty Only in the Longines Hong Kong Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin racecourse.
But the performance of day, which featured four Group 1 races, was the farewell performance of stallion Maurice, which produced a stunning effort to overhaul fellow Japanese entire A Shin Hikari, which at one stage gave the eventual winner a 15-length start in the Longines Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
Maurice, ridden by Ryan Moore, and A Shin Hikari are two of the highest rated horses in the world and will now head to stud. A Shin Hikari faded to finish well back, while Purton’s Secret Weapon finished second.
Maurice gave the Japanese two Group 1 winners for the day when Satono Crown, ridden by Joao Moreira, scored a narrow victory over the raging favourite and much-travelled Highland Reel, which led from the start but was grabbed just before the line in the Longines Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
It was left to Australian jockeys — and not horses — to shine in the sprint.
Gary Moore’s Takedown, a last-start winner of the Group 1 Winterbottom at Ascot, finished sixth but never looked a winning chance.
Slow away and always chasing, Takedown went down by only two lengths.
Fellow Sydney trainer Gary Portelli’s Rebel Dane, also a last-start Group 1 winner with victory in the Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley, was running near the lead early in the sprint but faded to finish down the track in 10th place.
Despite beating only two runners home in the 13-horse field, Rebel Dane was only beaten four lengths.
Rebel Dane, was ridden by Ben Melham, while Tim Clark was on Takedown.
While the two Sydney horses failed, it was left to Purton and fellow Aussie expatriate Brett Prebble, who have riding contracts in Hong Kong, to share in the limelight in the sprint.
Prebble was on even-money favourite Lucky Bubbles, which suffered interference on the home turn and ran home strongly to narrowly go down to Purton’s Aerovelocity, which is trained by New Zealander Paul O’Sullivan now based at Sha Tin.
“He is the bravest horse I have laid a saddle on,” O’Sullivan said.
Prebble wasn’t happy with some of the tactics in what he said was a roughly run race when he got shuffled back,
“There are few jocks playing jockeys out there,” Prebble said.
Portelli said he was disappointed to see Rebel Dane up near the lead, three deep when he wanted him further back in the field so he could finish off strongly.
It was a different story for Moore who would have liked Takedown running up near the lead.
“At the 200m, I put my binoculars down and thought he was going to run last,” Moore said.
Another Australian, Craig Williams, got off to a flying start to his short-term riding contract with a winner in the opening race when local horse Water Diviner won at $20. He then rode Ho Ho Feel to third in the following race.
Williams, who will ride in Hong Kong until December 27, didn’t have any rides in the four Group 1 races on the 10-race program.
The Australian riders dominated the afternoon with Hugh Bowman getting in on the act by taking out the final race aboard Queensland Derby winner Eagle Way.
Williams finished second on Santa Fe Sun and Purton again among the prizemoney on third placegetter Apollo’s Choice.
Hot shot Pakistan Star finished just off the placegetters after again bungling the start.
It was Japan’s biggest assault on the Longines International Race Day with 13 runners spread over the Group 1 races.