Normcore wins the 2020 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup.
Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Leo Schlink
Zac Purton has crowned a week of stellar milestones by becoming the first rider in history to partner nine LONGINES Hong Kong International Races winners after Japanese mare Normcore upstaged Win Bright and Magical in the HK$28 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
Purton, 37, gained the ride on the grey after Christophe Soumillon was forced to forfeit the mount after failing to secure an unconditional release from quarantine following a COVID test on Thursday.
On Wednesday at Happy Valley, Purton became only the second jockey after Douglas Whyte to ride 1,200 winners in Hong Kong.
The reigning jockey champion, Purton was jubilant after breaking the Hong Kong International Races’ tie he had shared with Frenchman Gerard Mosse after Normcore outsprinted fellow Japan’s Win Bright and Ireland’s Magical.
“It’s something I’m very proud of, it’s a great achievement,” he said.
“To also now be the only jockey to win the full set of international races twice is also for myself somewhat rewarding.
“Hopefully, I can just can continue to have luck at this meeting going forward.
“It’s been a great week, I’m very thankful that I get these opportunities.”
Purton was grateful to regain the ride on Normcore, whose previous G1 triumph came in the Victoria Mile when partnered by another Australian, Damian Lane, in May 2019.
“Initially we sort of confirmed the ride and then when it was announced Christophe was coming, they changed their mind. They’re entitled to do that,” Purton said.
“It was what it was, I just had to accept that. Thankfully, it came back.”
Purton has been synonymous with LONGINES Hong Kong International Races success with eight previous triumphs on the jurisdiction’s most prestigious day.
The New South Welshman savoured Vase glory with Dominant (2013) and Exultant (2018), the Mile with Ambitious Dragon (2012), Beauty Only (2016) and Beauty Generation (2018), Sprint with Aerovelocity (2014 and 2016) and the Cup with Time Warp in 2017.
Purton stalked the 2019 Cup winner Win Bright in the run before peeling widest in a riveting global contest.
Japan’s three runners finished in the top four, with Danon Premium trailing Magical to the line.
“She (Normcore) had to fight for it, Win Bright gave a really sharp kick and his love for Sha Tin was starting to show through,” Purton said.
“But she was determined and inch by inch, she just kept putting herself in the frame.”
Trained by Kiyoshi Hagiwara, Normcore ran fourth to Admire Mars in last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
Hagiwara has handled several topliners since taking out a trainers’ licence in 1996, including Logi Universe, Le Vent Se Leve and Obruchev.
Ryan Moore said a slackening mid-race tempo wrecked Magical’s chances of becoming the first horse trained by Aidan O’Brien to snare eight G1s.
“There was a lack of pace so therefore I couldn’t go where I wanted to go,” Moore said.
“She ran well.”
Normcore is the first filly or mare to win a HKIR since Ed Dunlop’s champion Snow Fairy took the Cup in 2010.t-year-old Beauty Generation will race no more. Hong Kong’s highest-rated galloper of all time – rated the equal of another great miler, Able Friend – bowed out with a meritorious fifth place and a Hong Kong career tally of 18 wins from 34 starts, as well as the local all-time record prize money haul of HK$106,233,750.
At his peak, Beauty Generation was an incredible force around Sha Tin, claiming two editions of the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile among his eight G1 wins for trainer John Moore – his last three races came under the care of trainer David Hayes.
“I knew it may be on the table,” said Zac Purton, who rode the Kwok family’s champion 28 times.
“It’s a bitter-sweet day. It’s a sad end. He’s been the best horse for me in my career. I’m certainly going to miss him. He was brave again today and wherever he may go in the world, I’m sure I’ll go and visit him in his paddock one day.”
Beauty Generation was high-class in Australia before scaling Hong Kong’s heights but never ventured away from Sha Tin to test his mettle as a champion overseas. Lui said when pressed that the Golden Sixty team will consider off-shore options in the future but not while the world remains in its pandemic-induced turmoil.
“Not this season,” he said. “Because of the virus, we’ll keep him in Hong Kong this season.”
With Ireland’s Mogul carrying off the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase and Japanese raiders Danon Smash and Normcore capturing the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint and LONGINES Hong Kong Cup respectively, Hong Kong needed a big performance from its latest home town hero.
Golden Sixty delivered just that, and with it, the promise that Hong Kong has unearthed yet another athlete to rank among the world’s best.