Keefy has emerged as a legitimate Four-Year-Old Classic Series contender after crushing victory in the HK$3.8 million Class 1 Chevalier Cup Handicap (1600m) as Zac Purton set a record for the quickest half-century of winners by a jockey in Hong Kong racing history with a five-timer at Sha Tin on Sunday (November 27).
Reigning champion trainer Frankie Lor regained the lead in the 2022/23 trainers' championship with Keefy's emphatic victory as Purton sped to 50 winners at only his 184th ride for the campaign, eclipsing his previous best of 50 victories from 219 mounts in 2021/22 – and Joao Moreira's record of 50 wins from 189 rides in 2015/16.
Striding towards a sixth Hong Kong title with 51 wins at a strike rate of 27.5% after riding in 21 of 22 meetings so far, Purton said: “Things are going nicely, obviously we had a hiccup with a week out with COVID and it's been a good start to the season. I have a nice pool of support at the moment and some nice young horses coming through.
“When you get all that coming together, it makes it all the more enjoyable and let's just hope things can carry on the way they are. It's nice to have a good day and hopefully I can bang a few more in.”
Purton, 39, clinched the record aboard Sweet Encounter in the Class 3 Chevalier Enterprise Digital Solutions Handicap (1600m) after earlier wins on Youthful Ideal, Accelerando and Super Red Dragon.
The Australian, who broke Douglas Whyte's record on Wednesday night (November 23) for the most wins at Happy Valley with his 574th success at the city circuit, closed Sunday's meeting with success on Francis Lui's impressive Packing Treadmill, who earned a HK$1 million PPG bonus by winning the Class 2 Chevalier Healthcare Investment Handicap (1400m).
Purton's Sunday bag leaves him with 51 wins for the season – 30 ahead of Vincent Ho.
Purton's latest milestone came as Keefy confirmed Lor's opinion of the All Too Hard gelding with a facile triumph in the afternoon's feature and he will now be set for the lucrative Four-Year-Old Classic Series, which starts on 29 January with Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin before progressing to the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on 26 February and the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on 19 March.
“It was a nice win. I've always said this is my best one (horse) for the Four-Year-Old series, definitely for the 1600m and the 1800m. I'm still not sure about the 2000m, but four-year-olds – if their form is still good – can often handle it,” said Lor, who now has 19 wins for the term.
Given a perfect stalking ride in fourth place by Derek Leung behind pace-setting The Rock, Keefy (123lb) surged to a 3.5-length triumph after striking the lead at the 300m mark to down Beluga (127lb) and All For St Paul's (123lb).
“It was a good win – he had everything suitable for him. He had a nice tempo, last time it was too slow, and this time the tempo was a bit quicker and he was in a good position, so I didn't have to use him in the early part and so he saved the battery. At the 400m, he gave a very good kick,” Leung said on completing a double.
Keefy collected a HK$1 million PP Bonus for his owners.
Solar Winds also earned a HK$1 million PP Bonus with victory in the Class 3 Chevalier Environmental Engineering Handicap (1200m) for Caspar Fownes and Hugh Bowman, who sealed a brace after earlier combining with Manfred Man and We Are Hero.
Man attributed We Are Hero's gaping victory under Hugh Bowman in the Class 4 Chevalier Aluminium Engineering Handicap (1000m) to a switch back to five furlongs.
“I was a little surprised by the win,” Man said. “He was scratched before his last race and then he trialled well and Hugh said he was happy to ride him over 1000 metres. He was very impressive today.”
Jerry Chau and Benno Yung combined with Chiu Chow Brother to land the Class 5 Chevalier Building Supplies & Engineering Handicap (1400m) before Purton coaxed the best out of Frankie Lor's Youthful Deal to clinch the Class 4 Chevalier Car Dealership Handicap (1200m).
Purton extended his commanding season with success on John Size-trained Accelerando in the Class 4 Chevalier Cold Storage & Logistics Handicap (1600m), as Yung logged a double when Fiery Diamond prevailed in the Class 3 Chevalier Construction Handicap (1200m, dirt) under Derek Leung.
Purton's domination continued with Super Red Dragon's success for Chris So in the Class 4 Chevalier E & M Engineering Handicap (1400m) before he cruised to victory in the Class 3 Chevalier Enterprise Digital Solutions Handicap (1600m) for Size, who boosted his tally for the season to 16 with a double.
Hong Kong horse racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (November 30, 2022).