Crowning a perfect week for veteran trainer Manfred Man, rising star Lucky Sweynesse's redemptive victory in the HK$12 million Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday also provided Zac Purton with revealing satisfaction.
Devastated for Man after Lucky Sweynesse failed to obtain clear running before finishing an untested sixth in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), the usually emotionless Purton jubilated in the four-year-old's first Group 1 success – two days after Man, 65, had been given an extension to continue training next season.
2023 Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup Replay – Lucky Sweynesse
Referring to Lucky Sweynesse's unfortunate Hong Kong Sprint experience, Purton revealed the most important part of today's triumph was the validation of Man at the elite level after the five-time Hong Kong champion jockey took luck out of the equation by sitting outside leader Sight Success before accelerating strongly inside the last 200m to prevail in decisive fashion.
“There was nothing I could do in the International Sprint (Hong Kong Sprint). We drew the wrong gate (barrier three) and we just got locked away. I was just disappointed for Manfred. It was his big chance and it doesn't sit well with me at not being able to deliver for him, but hopefully today has gone some way to repaying him,” Purton said.
“It was pretty painless today. As soon as he begun as well as he did and I was able to get outside the leader, I was fairly confident from there. He still had to turn up and do it and Sight Success gave him a good race – he gave a good kick, so I had to work to get past him and hold them off. He did a terrific job.”
Purton seized a familiar initiative today after Lucky Sweynesse mustered early speed to take his preferred position on the speed, while Hong Kong's top-rated sprinter and four-time Group 1 winner Wellington stalked his rival from fourth place. The positioning would prove telling with Wellington clocking a faster last 400m (22.15s) than Lucky Sweyenesse (22.17s), but ultimately unable to overhaul his younger foe in the run to the line after Purton had struck first for home.
While Wellington eventually edged Sight Success into third place to deliver the quinella most pundits expected in 1m 8.12s, Purton drew undisguised delight from the Hong Kong Jockey Club's decision to extend Man's licence into the 2023/24 season.
“I think the Club has done the right thing there and I look forward to riding a fair few more winners for him,” Purton smiled.
Beaming with excitement, Man said: “Each winner is special for me but a Group 1 winner makes me feel powerful. I'm still excited. I was full of confidence that he could win. Two runs ago he just had no luck, everyone could see that. This race he drew eight but he could still win. I think the horse can still improve. Zac told me he is a good horse.”
Ruling out international travel, Man will next target the two remaining legs in Hong Kong's Speed Series – the Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) on 19 March and the Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize (1200m) on 30 April.
“I don't think we will go to Dubai because the timing is maybe not suitable for him. Dubai is the end of March and then after one month Hong Kong has a sprint race for him, so I just worry that with the quarantine there's not enough time to train him up,” said Man, who previously won the Centenary Sprint Cup with Eagle Regiment in 2012 and 2013.
“Eagle Regiment is only suitable for 1000m straight races but this horse (Lucky Sweynesse) can go to 1200m, 1400m and even 1600m. I think he is better than Eagle Regiment.”
Asked about the licence extension, Man who has 23 winners this season, said: “I can only say thank you to the Jockey Club for giving me the chance, I will try my best.”