Fast Most Furious opens his Hong Kong account last start.
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
Zac Purton enjoyed a dream run on Fast Most Furious at Happy Valley last month, skirting the inside rail for a smart win, and the former champion jockey is looking for a repeat result in the Class 3 Shan Pui River Handicap (1200m) at the city venue on Wednesday (9 May) night.
But with top-weight of 133lb and a weather forecast predicting grey skies and heavy showers through Wednesday, Purton is taking a balanced view of the David Hall-trained galloper’s chances.
“The likelihood of a wet track throws a bit of a spanner in the works,” Purton said at a wet Sha Tin this morning (Tuesday, 8 May). “It’s hard to say if he’ll handle it because he hasn’t been on it before, so we’ll just have to see.
“He had everything to suit last time - he had a good gate that day, the speed was on, he was on the fence and he saved a lot of ground. It was nice to see him do that and get the job done, it’s going to be harder this time though with a heavier weight to carry.”
The Irish import has had just seven life-time races, his last start win being his first success in Hong Kong at the fifth time of asking. Purton is pleased with how the Lope De Vega five-year-old has come through that effort and is hopeful that, from a decent berth in gate four, he will handle an 8lb hike in the ratings.
“The horse has come through the run well,” he said. “He’s shown at his last couple of starts that he’s heading in the right direction and this race looks like it maps well for him again, so he gets his chance but it’s never easy when you’re carrying top-weight.”
One man pleased to see rain is trainer Paul O’Sullivan, fresh from notching his 400th Hong Kong win at the weekend. The Kiwi is set to saddle Back In Black (122lb) in opposition to Purton’s mount. Tommy Berry is booked to ride the grey, a five-time victor at the Valley but winless since a course and distance score almost exactly two years ago.
“I think he’s had two or three runs on rain-affected going and he’s won or gone close every time, so I’m not too sure how the track will pan out on Wednesday evening but if the forecast is anything to go by it could be rain-affected. His last run was very good. He’s got to overcome a wide draw (nine) so any rain would help a lot.”
The Murtajill six-year-old is on a mark 10lb lower than his last win and was a nose second at the course and distance last time. O’Sullivan reapplied blinkers for that near-miss, the first time Back In Black had worn them since April last year. The blinkers remain for Wednesday night’s finale.
“He’s had the blinkers on and off and it was just a matter of trying to get his head around things. He’d become a bit inconsistent, pretty hit and miss - when I expected him to go well he didn’t and vice versa. He seemed a little bit more focused with them on and let’s hope he can take that into this next race.
“I think Fast Most Furious is the one to beat, for sure. He’s a promising horse and I think Back In Black has found his rating and David’s horse is progressive, so he’ll be hard to beat,” he added.
The eight-race card also features the Class 3 Sauternes Cup Handicap (1650m), in which Purton will attempt to unlock Friends Of Ka Ying (132lb), another galloper without a win in a while.
That last win, his only Hong Kong triumph, makes for good reading. It came in a January, 2016 Class 2 over 1400m and the bay pipped subsequent two-time G1 winner Helene Paragon, with G2 victor Secret Weapon third and the only horse to have won all three legs of the Hong Kong Four-Year-Series, Rapper Dragon, back in seventh.
Friends Of Ka Ying has gone through three trainers and 25 runs without another win, racking up eight top-three placings. Last time, his third start for trainer Caspar Fownes, the six-year-old ran on to finish fourth in a course and distance Class 3 off his current mark of 78, fully 10 points lower than his winning rating.
“He’s a hard horse to catch, isn’t he?” said Purton, who will take the Al Maher gelding’s reins for the eighth time. “He’s always running on late - that’s him - he’s never winning.
“He’s a very difficult horse and he needs the right circumstances,” he continued. “He doesn’t help himself because he’s not that well-balanced and when you’re coming down past ‘The Rock’ on him he’s not picking up and travelling into it as nice as you’d like a horse to be. Then when you straighten he seems to climb in his action and roll around; he doesn’t balance up very quickly, so that means he can’t accelerate - it takes him too long to work it out and then he’s flying home at the end.
“He’s frustrating but maybe the rain will help him. He’s had plenty of chances in the last two years and hasn’t done it, so we’ll just have to ride it and see if it works out this time.”
The 12-runner contest also features last start winner Don’t Miss (122lb), set to benefit from Matthew Poon’s 5lb claim.
The night also features the Class 4 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association 40th Anniversary Trophy Handicap (1650m), in which O’Sullivan will rely on top-weight Planet Star (133lb), a winner of two of his last four races.
“He’s racing well now,” the trainer said. “He was doing a lot wrong in his races, he wasn’t changing his legs right, but he seems to have worked it out after a while. He’s got good gate speed so he’ll go forward from the wide gate. I think, in time, he’ll cut it in Class 3, for sure.”
The night kicks off at 12.15pm with the Class 5 Ho Chung River Handicap (1200m).