In an extraordinary display of excellence, Zac Purton has again stamped his authority on Hong Kong racing, posting a personal-best of seven wins to dominate at Sha Tin on Sunday (October 9) and take an iron-grip on the 2022/23 jockeys' championship.
On an incredible day, Purton's career-high of seven was underscored by Harry Bentley's treble on the 10-race card, while Benno Yung took training honours with a treble from Danny Shum and John Size, who both notched doubles.
But, by any measure, it was the ‘Zac Purton Show' with his three unplaced rides – Campione (fourth), All Is Good (fourth) and The Irishman (fifth) – all finishing in the top five as a gauge of elite consistency and ambition.
After only nine meetings, Purton has tallied 21 wins – more than doubling the haul of nearest rival Vincent Ho (nine) – and in the absence of Joao Moreira and Karis Teetan, the Australian maestro is forging relentlessly towards a sixth championship.
“It was nice, all the horses ran well. I had a couple there that let me down a little bit, but you can't be too picky – it's been a good day,” Purton reflected. “Seven wins is good.
“It's nice that the trainers and the owners are supporting me. I had a couple of nice horses today but you still need the right barriers, the track bias, the tempo – all of those things – in your favour and you need the horses to turn up on the day.
“It's not easy, but I suppose when it comes together, it certainly feels good.”
Moreira, who is sidelined with a hip issue, holds Hong Kong's all-time record for the most wins at a single meeting with eight victories from 11 races at Sha Tin on 5 March, 2017.
Exceeding his previous effort of six wins at a meeting – a feat he had achieved four times – Purton has continued an outstanding start to the season while building a stunning winning strike rate of 26.58%.
Revered for his ability to navigate Happy Valley's tricky contours, Purton has excelled at Sha Tin this season, producing at least two winners per meeting at each of the venue's five meetings so far for a total of 18 victories from 48 rides at a staggering winning strike rate of 37.5%.
With four of his previous six-timers materialising in the 2018/19 season, Purton dominated from the outset on Sunday with only Harry Bentley (three wins) able to snap the Australian's unstinting mastery.
Yung provided three of Purton's winners to post his first treble in more than three seasons, while the reigning champion jockey also combined successfully with John Size (two wins), Jimmy Ting and David Hayes.
Bentley's treble was peppered through Purton's reign, initially triumphing on Danny Shum-trained Majestic Star in Class 1 Egret Handicap (1200m, dirt) and twice subsequently upstaging the Australian.
“Majestic Star is obviously a very good quality horse and he's got form on the All Weather so we knew that was going to suit him well. From a wide draw, we ended up just sitting three-wide but he was travelling so strongly, I couldn't really do a lot about that,” the Englishman said.
“He took me into the race extremely well and once I pressed the button, he picked up really nicely for me.”
Bentley, 30, repeated the feat after Purton had prevailed in five of the first six races, stalking Purton on the favourite All Is Good (fourth) and fending off Wide Blue Yonder to land the Class 4 Sea Eagle Handicap (1400m) on Fire Ball to again disrupt the Australian's ascendancy.
Bentley closed the meeting in tremendous style by propelling Packing Victory across the line in a desperate finish to clinch the Class 2 Swan Handicap (1400m) for Danny Shum.
“It's a good milestone to get my first treble here in Hong Kong and to do it here at Sha Tin and in some really good quality races is fantastic. Danny has been fantastic and I really appreciate that he stood by me – it's good to get some winners on the board, it's good for the confidence,” Bentley said.
Purton's amazing spree began in the opening race with a gaping victory atop Benno Yung's Yes We Can in the Class 4 Flamingo Handicap (1650m, dirt) – the first leg of a double for both the jockey and trainer, who were again to the fore with Fiery Diamond in the Class 4 Heron Handicap (1200m, dirt).
Beaten into fourth place on Campione in the Class 1 Egret Handicap (1200m, dirt), Purton reprised a dominating role atop Sunny Baby in the Class 5 Kestrel Handicap (1400m) for David Hayes.
“With his running style, he needs luck and a good ride and he got both from Zac today,” said Hayes, who leads the trainers' championship with nine wins.
Purton's reign continued with the ultra-impressive debut of Beauty Eternal, who overcame difficulties before surging to victory in the Class 4 Peacock Handicap (1200m) for John Size.
Unraced and a trial winner in Australia where he was known as Teamyouessa, the Starspangledbanner gelding lingered at the start and covered ground before easing to a widening two-length win over seven-time Hong Kong winner Regency Bo Bo.
“He did run very well and he was disadvantaged through the bad draw (gate 14), he covered plenty of ground and still won quite well, so you'd have to be happy with the way he's begun his racing career and hopefully he can improve on that,” Size said.
“He came through that with flying colours and passed his first test well. It's only one race and as he becomes progressive, we can work out where he's going to go in life. I'm satisfied today.”
A perfectly-timed ride atop Handsome Twelve in the Class 3 Chinese General Chamber Of Commerce Cup Handicap (1650m, dirt) left Purton one shy of his personal best haul of six winners at a single Hong Kong meeting.
Purton duly notched a sixth on Man Star in the Class 3 Chinese Recreation Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m, dirt) for Jimmy Ting before steaming into uncharted territory with a ground-saving ride on Erimo in the Class 3 Spoonbill Handicap (1400m).