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Campione returns to favourite surface as Zac Purton takes the reins

October 9, 2022, 3:20:44 AM

Holding a healthy lead in the 2022/23 Hong Kong jockeys’ championship, Zac Purton will attempt to strengthen his grip on the title when partnering Campione in the Class 1 Egret Handicap (1200m, dirt) at Sha Tin on Sunday (9 October).

Holding a healthy lead in the 2022/23 Hong Kong jockeys’ championship, Zac Purton will attempt to strengthen his grip on the title when partnering Campione in the Class 1 Egret Handicap (1200m, dirt) at Sha Tin on Sunday (9 October).

A British-bred son of Australian sprinter Brazen Beau, Campione was a revelation for Tony Cruz during his first Hong Kong season with three wins over 1200m at Sha Tin – with two of those successes materialising on the dirt course.

Runner-up to Lucky Sweynesse in the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap (1200m) when resuming on 11 September, Campione – unbeaten in a three-start two-year-old career in Italy in 2021 – switches back to Sha Tin’s All Weather track on Sunday.

“He likes the dirt, but it’s always a bit tricky when you draw near (gate six of seven) the outside in a small field – horses that normally aren’t ridden in a prominent position all of a sudden want to take a position, so they might make it difficult for him,” said Purton, who has notched 14 wins so far this season.

“I thought his first-up run was very good and he gets back to a surface that he’s been successful on.”

Vincent Ho retains the mount on Frankie Lor-trained Winning Dreamer and will chase an eighth victory aboard the Deep Field gelding who will make his competitive debut on dirt after 20 outings on Sha Tin’s turf.

“He’s always performed well in the trials on dirt, so I think Mr Lor wanted to give it (dirt) a try. Fortunately, we’ve drawn (barrier) one and for 1200 metres, even though we might not have the speed to lead, at least he can have the pace to keep up with the first half of the field,” Ho said.

“We’ll be able to get cover and he can still be very strong to the line. I think he has a chance to perform in the race like he does in the trials. He’s a lovely horse to ride, very straight-forward. He’s mature, he can handle the pressure and he should perform.”

With six wins and 10 placings from 55 runners this campaign, Caspar Fownes is upbeat over what awaits this preparation for Galaxy Witness who resumes in the Class 2 Swan Handicap (1400m) under Matthew Chadwick.

Eligible for a PPG Bonus of HK$1 million if he wins on Sunday, Galaxy Witness is being set for the lucrative Four-Year-Old Classic Series, which starts with the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) on 29 January.

“He’s had a lovely prep leading into his first run, he’s a lovely, big horse and we’re expecting big things from him this season and he’s ready to go to the races.

“He’s got a lovely gate – gate three – and a light weight (117lb) and I’m sure he’s going to be competitive even though he’s up against a pretty handy field, I believe he’s a handy horse,” Fownes said.

“He’s come through his trials nicely, so it’s a nice starting race for us (on Sunday) at 1400 metres. Obviously, we’re hopeful of picking up the distance with him this prep and see how far we can take him.

“On face value, the trial was good. There’s no reason why he can’t be very competitive first-up. He’s had a good summer break, he’s strengthened up and we’re going to campaign him for big things this preparation.”

Galaxy Witness won his first four starts last season before suffering his only defeat to All For St Paul’s – who resumed this season with a first-up victory on 1 October.

Sunday’s (9 October) 10-race card at Sha Tin starts with the Class 4 Flamingo Handicap (1650m, dirt) at 1pm.