by J. Keeler Johnson
Hong Kong’s reigning champion jockey Zac Purton appears poised to enjoy a strong day at Sha Tin on Sunday, September 15.
The acclaimed rider is scheduled to ride in each of the 10 races, and judging from the quality of his mounts, a multi-win day would come as no surprise. Purton should have a particularly strong chance in the opener, scheduled for 1 a.m. (ET).
We’ll count on Purton in both of our spot plays for the Sunday card, so if Purton enjoys a big day, we’ll hopefully ride his coattails to a profitable day of our own.
Race 1: Hwamei Handicap (Class 4)
Crown Avenue (#3) (9-4) might be a veteran of 36 starts, but this seven-year-old son of Hard Spun remains in top form. Three of his four victories have come over 1,800 meters, the distance of this Class 4 handicap, and he just missed when finishing third over this course and distance on July 14, when he rallied boldly in the homestretch to fall a half-length short of victory.
Crown Avenue demonstrated a strong turn-of-foot on that occasion, sprinting the final two 400-meter sectionals in :23.44 and :22.72. These were significantly faster than the standard times for the class level (:24.20 and :23.60), and Crown Avenue might have won if not for a poor start that left him in last place behind a slow pace.
With a better start on Sunday, Crown Avenue should be tough to beat while negotiating his favorite distance. As an added bonus, he’ll be reunited with top jockey Zac Purton, who was aboard for Crown Avenue’s most recent victory.
The improving Family Leader (#4) (17-2) won over this distance and class level at Happy Valley in July and looms as one to strongly consider in the exotics. Bullish Glory (#11) (4-1) and Gorgeous Again (#6) (13-2), fourth and 11th in Crown Avenue’s last run, are the others I’ll use underneath.
$13 to win on #3 Crown Avenue
$10.40 quinella: 3,4
$2.60 trifecta: 3 with 4,6,11 with 4,6,11 ($15.60)
Race 8: Swallow Handicap (Class 3)
The rapidly-improving Buddies (#8) (5-2) has made three starts over the track and distance of this 1,650-meter dirt route. The results have been impressively productive – two wins and a second, including a 2 3/4-length victory at this class level on July 1. In the latter triumph, he ran the final two 400-meter sectionals in :23.67 and :23.69, solid fractions for the distance and class level.
Buddies also ran well in a 1,200-meter barrier trial on September 3, finishing second while never asked for his best, and with his excellent record over the Sha Tin dirt, he looms as the horse to beat on Sunday. Regular rider Zac Purton will be in the saddle for legendary trainer John Moore, so I won’t get too creative with my wagers – I’ll just bet Buddies heavily to win.
$26 to win on #8 Buddies
PHOTO: Sha Tin (c) Hong Kong Jockey Club