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Purton pairs with veteran Saul’s Special as Chang nears 300 career Hong Kong wins

April 8, 2021, 8:26:02 AM

Zac Purton will reunite with familiar ally Saul's Special in the Class 3 Cooper Handicap (1000m) for a rare Thursday night (8 April) meeting at Happy Valley, hoping not only to improve his impressive record aboard the galloper, but also to snare trainer Michael Chang's 300th Hong Kong victory.

Purton has three victories, a second, and a fourth from five rides aboard the Australian-bred, and the pair will face nine rivals from gate two tomorrow night in the retired gelding's 47th Hong Kong start.

“I haven't ridden him in a long time, but he's in a suitable grade, he's been running well this season without winning, but maybe he will only get the break to go his way,” Purton said. “It will be good for Michael (Chang) and his contacts to have another winner.”

The Charge Forward gelding has raced well this season, finishing in the top three four times, including a first-up second with Purton in the plate, and he has evidently relished the drop in grading since competing only in Class 2 or above last year.

“When he splits cleanly, he puts himself in the right place, and he'll need to do it for the weight to win,” Purton said.

Prior to export, the 76-rater won the Listed Fairetha Stakes over 1400m at Ascot Racecourse in Perth, Australia, but has since turned into a 1000m expert in his new home, with four victories over five furlongs, three over tomorrow night's course and distance.

After being licensed for the 2005/06 season, the Chang-trainee is in his fifth season, and his handler is in his 16th. His prosperous career has yielded 299 Hong Kong wins, and he is the only Hong Kong trainer to win a race in North America after Rich Tapestry's heroics in the 2014 G1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (dirt, 1200m).

Chang, who has five wins this season, has two entries in the Class 4 Moorsom Handicap, as one-time champion Chikorita takes on the first section (1200m).

Although Chang has two opportunities, Purton has nine chances to close the 17-win gap between himself and Joao Moreira at the top of the Hong Kong jockeys' championship (107 – 90).

A new partnership with the Danny Shum-trained Grateful Heart (132lb) in the Class 2 Clementi Handicap (1000m), the evening's highest-class race, is included.

“I think just getting up to 1000 (metres) is a good thing, his latest trial was good, and he's a little bit more calm in the mornings, he doesn't rip and tear like he used to,” Purton said.

Purton has led this season's DBS x Manulife Million Challenge leader to three of his four victories this season, as he looks to rebound from a third-place finish last time out.

“I really very like him coming back to 1000 (metres), I don't think there is a problem with that or 1200 (metres), but his win over 1000 (metres) a couple of starts ago was amazing, he has such good gate pace, he puts himself in the right place and not just that, he was solid down the line,” Purton said.

This season, Purton and Shum have proven a formidable combination with 23 wins and since the beginning of March the duo has 10 in collaboration.

David Ferraris is hoping that using Jerry Chau's seven-pound apprentice argument would be the secret to getting the most out of Methane in tomorrow night's Class 4 Price Handicap (1800m).

“He's not a big horse, and I think having Jerry (Chau) on would make a big difference, particularly when I saw the weights coming out because they're not as compressed as I thought,” Ferraris said.

With five entries, Ferraris is searching for his 12th victory of the season, fueled by his son Luke's recent South African Triple Crown triumph aboard Malmoos.

“He's done an excellent job, he's made his mother and I very proud, he's doing very well now, and he's a very talented little rider,” he added.

“He (Methane) will certainly be (one of my best chances on the night), Super Commander would also have a good chance, Ambitious Heart would also have a good chance, they should all go pretty close, they have strong barriers,” he said.

Methane has only won once in 18 races, but he has been a reliable customer with six other top-three finishes.

“He's doing pretty well; we just need a winner; things haven't been going too well lately, so let's hope he will improve our luck,” Ferraris said.

Ferraris will also debut Captain Tiger, the full brother to Malmoos, the South African Triple Crown champion, when he competes in the Class 3 Creasy Handicap (1200m) for the first time in Hong Kong.

The four-year-old arrives in Hong Kong as a one-time winner at Kenilworth before a maiden run over 1600m.

Thursday's nine-race card at Happy Valley gets underway at 6.45 p.m. with the Class 5 Moreton Handicap (1650m).