Frankie Lor is banking on Zac Purton’s expertise to offset Healthy Happy’s weight challenge in the Class 1 Chinese New Year Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Tuesday as the Hong Kong champion trainer searches to end a frustrating losing streak with the 108-rater.
Winner of the 2021 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), defeating Russian Emperor and Shadow Hero en route to a career peak mark of 114, Healthy Happy has since added only one more victory and is currently in the midst of a 10-race run of outs.
Contained in that sequence, however, is a quartet of Group 3 placings, including a last-start second to Lucky Sweynesse in the Group 3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on January 1 under Silvestre de Sousa.
Purton, who leads the 2022/23 jockeys’ championship by 38 wins with 78 victories so far, partnered Lucky Sweynesse at the New Year’s Day meeting but teams with Healthy Happy for the first time in the six-year-old’s career on Tuesday.
“This time I put Zac Purton on because he’s carrying 135 pounds, so Zac is maybe better in this situation with the weight,” Lor said. “The horse ran well last time and this time he can lead by himself or sit second. He’s always consistent, so I hope he can win this time.”
Healthy Happy faces nine rivals on Tuesday, including stablemate Winning Dreamer (126lb) in a field which also contains Blaze Warrior (129lb), Fantastic Treasure (127lb), The Golden Scenery (127lb), The Irishman (124lb), Beluga (122lb), Circuit Stellar (115lb), Family Folks (115lb) and Mr Ascendency (115lb).
Lor, who has 29 wins this campaign, has previously been unsuccessful in two 1400m attempts with Winning Dreamer – a seven-time victor from 1000m to 1200m in Hong Kong – but hopes the Deep Field gelding is now sufficiently seasoned to stretch in trip more effectively.
“He has raced two times at 1400 metres without winning but we can again step to 1400 metres – he looks like that distance will be better for him now,” Lor said.
Mr Ascendency finished third behind the impressive Tuchel at Sha Tin over 1400m last Sunday (January 15) and Ricky Yiu has no reservations in backing up the gelding under de Sousa.
“He has come through his last run 100 percent. He had been back and forward between Conghua and Hong Kong before that and he had benefitted from that,” Yiu said. “I think the horse has still got a bit of improvement in him and I’m pretty optimistic because he’s carrying the light weight on Tuesday that he will be close again.”
Mr Ascendency shouldered 127lb last weekend in Class 2 and the rise in grade is accompanied by a corresponding 12-pound drop in weight.
“He ran really well the other day, it’s over 1400 metres again, but this time a lot lighter,” said Yiu, who sits in eighth place in the trainers’ championship with 20 victories to date.