Winner's Way helped Zac Purton to a five-timer and earned a shot at one of two upcoming Group 3 prizes with a front-running victory in the Class 1 Macwhinnie Cup Handicap (1400m), the feature contest on a rainy Chairmen's Day at Sha Tin (Saturday, 13 May).
Winner's Way's win sealed an early hat-trick for Purton who was untouchable in the afternoon's first three contests. The former champion jockey opened with a straightforward score on the much-hyped two-year-old Hot King Prawn in the Chairmen's Day Plate (1000m) and followed-up aboard the David Hall-trained Hard Ball Get in race two, the Class 4 Cheung Cup Handicap (1400m).
And then, in race seven, the Australian drove the Benno Yung-trained Lucky Dollar to a length and three-quarter success in the Class 4 Li Cup Handicap (1000m); an all-the-way win on the Cruz-trained King Genki in the eighth, the Class 3 Arculli Trophy Handicap (1650m), sealed a first Purton quintet since 26 October, 2014. The rider also drove home three close seconds.
Winner's Way's triumph was his fourth from nine Hong Kong starts and followed an impressive make-all score at Happy Valley a month ago.
“He'll have one more run this season, I think – there are a couple of Group 3 races, one at a mile and one at 1400 (metres) so we'll look at one of those,” trainer Tony Cruz said, referencing the 4 June Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) and the Premier Cup Handicap (1400m) three weeks later.
“We'll plan a mile campaign for next season,” he continued. “He's improving all the time but he's just a miler; after he ran well in the Classic Mile in January we tried him over 1800 (metres) in the Classic Cup but he didn't get home, so we didn't even take him to the Derby.”
A tardy break today meant that Purton had to bustle the four-year-old through the first 100 metres to snare the lead but once there the 1.6 favourite commanded his six opponents. A length to the good turning for home, Winner's Way (127lb) quickened approaching the 300m point as stablemate California Whip (120lb) emerged from the pack to launch a challenge.
That rival peaked on his run approaching the final furlong, leaving top-weight Horse Of Fortune (128lb) as the principal danger. But the latter's wide, late charge under Kei Chiong closed the winner's margin to no less than a length and a half as Winner's Way clocked a time just inside standard at 1m 21.48s. California Whip took third.
“He's a nice horse,” Purton said. “Down in the weights in a Group 3, when he gets there he'll acquit himself well.
“He's still doing a few little things wrong in the race as well, so I think there's still some scope there,” he continued. “He gets on his wrong leg going into the corner and gets off-balance; in the straight, he keeps wanting to get out a little bit, so once he straightens those things out and breathes a little bit better, he'll be alright. It'll come.”
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