Fast Most Furious makes it look easy in the end as he takes the finale under Zac Purton.
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
Fast Most Furious delivered the standout performance at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 9 May, but as the field swung for home in the night’s finale, those holding win tickets on the short-priced favourite were sweating on their investment.
“He was in trouble on the turn, he never travelled tonight: I was hard-ridden coming down ‘The Rock’ – I thought I was gone,” jockey Zac Purton said as he headed back to scale, his silks spattered from the rain-softened turf.
“In trouble” was how it looked from the grandstand, too. Fast Most Furious, a last start winner and a warm 2.4 chance to seal section one of the Class 3 Shan Pui River Handicap (1200m), appeared to be labouring back in the field as Happy Cooperation led the dozen contenders into the home run.
“I think maybe he didn’t like the ground,” Purton said, “and he had a heavy weight as well.”
Those factors looked like consigning the David Hall-trained five-year-old to defeat. But with 200m to race, Purton’s mount straightened up on the wide outside, found his balance and engaged turbo. The lightly-raced Lope De Vega gelding surged to a length and three-quarter success over Shanghai Master, ears pricked, looking around in the final strides.
“Once he got in the straight he just showed his class. He’s still a young horse, so maybe there’s some greenness there but I think he just wasn’t comfortable on that ground,” Purton added.
Continuous rain saw the track downgraded to good-to-yielding by the time the Hall galloper stopped the clock at 1m 10.53s in the six-furlong heat.
“He’s only lightly-raced and he’s winning at a distance that is probably not going to be his best, so to win with 133lb on his back, under those circumstances tonight, there’s every chance he’ll be able to win in Class 2,” the trainer said.
The victory was Hall’s 11th of the season, the handler having taken the preceding contest, the Class 3 Tan Shan River Handicap (1650m), with Lucky Time, ridden by stable apprentice Matthew Poon. The 5lb claimer made all, just as he had two races earlier when guiding the Danny Shum-trained Orionids to land the second section of the Class 3 Shan Pui River Handicap (1200m).
Purton bookended the card as he closed the night eight wins adrift of defending champion jockey Joao Moreira in the title race. The Australian ace opened with a score on the Caspar Fownes-trained Formula Galore, the 2.3 favourite. Moreira struck right back in the next, guiding top-weight Zero Hedge to a half-length success, but could not match Purton’s brace.
Acclaimed Light (115lb) has been consistent in defeat this term and gained his reward when battling to a gutsy victory in the evening’s featured trophy race, the Class 3 Sauternes Cup Handicap (1650m).
Matthew Chadwick urged the six-year-old through a determined stretch run, overhauling the front-running Don’t Miss (117lb) with 50m remaining, to prevail by a neck. Paul O’Sullivan’s charge was scoring for the first time this term, having finished out of the top four just twice in that time.
“He’s been racing well all year,” O’Sullivan said. “He had the right draw, he got the gun run, the pace was right – all the stars lined up. He’s just been very honest – this horse is always thereabouts and he finds the line.”
The 12/1 shot now has two Hong Kong wins on his record from 29 starts, both over 1650m at the Valley.
“The 1800 (metres) is probably his real go, though,” O’Sullivan said. “Matthew gave him a good ride.”
The night’s other trophy event went to the Tony Cruz-trained Multigogo (123lb). Jack Wong drove the 7.9 chance hard and late to nab the game front-runner Planet Star (133lb) in the Class 4 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association 40th Anniversary Trophy Handicap (1650m). It was the four-year-old’s third score at the course and distance this term.
Karis Teetan picked up a winning spare ride in race three. Sam Clipperton was initially booked for the Benno Yung-trained You Have My Word, but with the Australian sidelined due to a chest infection, the Mauritian made the most of the opportunity, swooping to bag the 1800m Class 4 by a length and a quarter at odds of 5.1.
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin Racecourse on Saturday, 12 May.