Reliable Team (124lb) will put his unbeaten record on the line in tonight’s (25 September) Class 3 Yip Fat Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley and Zac Purton hopes the rising talent can continue to overcome the challenges he’s already faced this early in his career.
“He’s done a good job so far and from awkward gates, he has another awkward gate again and he’s up in grade this time, so it’s going to be harder for him,” Purton said.
The Frankie Lor trainee scored two impressive wins last campaign, resulting in an 18-point rise in ratings to a current mark of 70.
His natural talent, though, has been complimented by determination and grit as he has twice been forced to overcome wide barriers. That is something he will need to contend with again as he will be breaking from stall 10 of 12.
“He wants to hang and runaway from other horses a little bit, but I think it’s just because he is under so much pressure trying to maintain his position, he hasn’t been in a race yet where he has been able to jump and travel comfortably – he’s been under the pump from the outset,” the three-time champion jockey said.
The four-year-old’s sire Reliable Man won the 2011 Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club (2100m) as well as the 2013 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) and Purton is of the opinion that he has similar qualities to that of his father, suggesting his continued progression may see him race over further.
“He does feel like a mile is going to be more suitable, so whether against the sharper horses that are a little bit more seasoned he can get away with it – we’ll just have to wait and see,” the champion jockey said.
Reliable Team faces 11 rivals in Wednesday’s assignment, including the likes of two-time course and distance winner Harrier Jet (124lb), Benno Yung’s Joyful Union (133lb) and Le Terroir (116lb) who also steps up in class following a two-win 2018/19 campaign.
Purton has eight rides out of a possible nine at Happy Valley, commencing in the opener when he reunites with the Chris So-trained Tianchi Monster (119lb). The gelding returns off a tough Hong Kong Derby campaign last term.
“He’s an interesting horse going forward,” Purton said. “Chris did a good job to actually get him into the Derby. For a while there it looked like he wasn’t going to make it.”
Tianchi Monster and race rival Mr So And So (126lb) will be the fifth and sixth horses to race this season out of last year’s Derby, following from last start winner Gold Chest, Enrichment (4th last time), Mission Tycoon (7th) and Harmony Victory (4th). Derby winner Furore trialled last week in preparation for his return.
“He ran credibly in the Derby although the form sort of wasn’t really franked after that, but he has a lightweight, he’s first-up and he’s going to improve,” Purton said.
The son of 2009 Melbourne Cup winner Shocking isn’t the only newly turned five-year-old out of last year’s Derby in the small but competitive field. Enrichment (122lb) and last start winner Green Luck (129lb) will also fly the four-year-old flag. The field also features the six-year-olds Helene Charisma (123lb), Brave Legend (118lb) and Ruthven (128lb).
“It’s not a strong race, there are a couple of chances in it but there’s not a lot of depth to it, it’s only a small field. I’m not sure he’s prepped to be at his best but the small field gives him his chance,” Purton said.
Brave Legend makes his seasonal return with Karis Teetan in the plate, the 29-year-old Mauritian heads into Wednesday fresh off a Sha Tin five-timer last Sunday.
“I’m excited to ride him again, he feels like he is a different horse this season,” he said. “I’ve trialled him and I think physically he has gotten stronger. It was a nice day, it’s nice to get a day like this early in the season to get your confidence up and let’s just hope the support continues to keep the winners going.”