Hoping to be cleared to ride at Sha Tin after testing positive to COVID last weekend, Zac Purton is optimistic a weight advantage will enable California Spangle to topple dual Hong Kong Horse of the Year Golden Sixty in the HK$5 million G2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m) on Sunday (20 November).
A runaway leader in the Hong Kong jockeys` championship with 40 wins, Purton has a full book of 10 rides at the weekend but must first pass COVID test on Sunday morning to take up the commitments – including mounts on California Spangle, Lucky Sweynesse and Beauty Joy in the meeting`s trio of G2 features.
Beaten by two lengths by Golden Sixty and Vincent Ho at equal weights – 126lb – in the G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) on 24 April, California Spangle (123lb) will enjoy a five-pound weight advantage this Sunday when Golden Sixty (128lb) bids for his 22nd win at his 25th start.
“California Spangle has the swing in the weights, so that`s going to help but it`s a small field. It`s hard to know how Golden Sixty is going because his last trial was on a pretty ordinary track and he seemed to look after himself, so there`s an unknown there,” Purton said.
“California Spangle has had a couple of starts so he should have a fitness edge as well and this is what we`re here for. You want to take the champ on. Whether we can beat him, we`re going to find out.
“I`m not going to say California Spangle has improved a lot, he`s sort of held his form. He does feel a little bit more mature but I still feel we`ve got a big task ahead of us. Obviously, I`ve been looking forward to the rematch and here it is – it`s upon us.”
Standby riders have been arranged if Purton is unable to ride this weekend.
Sunday`s meeting will feature the addition to Hong Kong`s jockey roster of four world-class riders - James McDonald, Blake Shinn, Mickael Barzalona and Hugh Bowman.
“It`s just lovely to be back. I feel really enthusiastic about what lies ahead. I`ve got nice rides on Sunday. Looking forward, I think I`ve got some nice rides at Happy Valley next week and beyond,” said Bowman, who rides Courier Wonder in the G2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) for John Size and Money Catcher for Frankie Lor in the G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m).
“They look handy. I think it`s the time of the year that horses don`t necessarily need to win but if they can run well at these meetings and progress onto the international, a good season lies ahead.
“It`s lovely to be getting the opportunity to ride. They`re not the headline horses for this week but who`s to say they won`t progress into being that later in the season? If these horses can run well, make their presence felt, I`m sure they can all improve on what they do this Sunday and if they win, even better.”
Bowman, who has enjoyed tremendous success on previous Hong Kong stints, will partner David Hall`s Good Buddy in the Class 3 BOCHK BOC Pay Handicap (1400m).
“He was the first horse I sat on since my return and he gave me a really good feel. He galloped very well and he`s got a nice draw – things look to be falling into place for him. Obviously, he`s in very good form, he`s been racing well and his work on Thursday morning (17 November) would indicate he`s ready to run well,” Bowman said.
Karis Teetan is resigned to watching from the sidelines this weekend as Romantic Warrior resumes in the BOCHK Jockey Club Cup but the Mauritian is confident last season`s revelation – the gelding advanced from unraced Class 4 contender to G1-winning status in the space of eight starts – can perform for James McDonald.
“We had a great connection, me and this horse, and we won some major races last season and it`s a shame that I`m going to miss his races this season. Of course, James can ride the horse. I`m happy that Danny had made a decision – and I think they made the right decision because he`s a good horse and they need a really good jockey on him,” Teetan said of the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) victor.
“His preparation looks pretty good and I think he`s going to be competitive. He had a minor setback and he`s going to go and take on horses that are running and fit, so it`s going to be a challenge for him.
“But I think he`s got a lot of quality and I think that could help him out.”
Teetan hopes to soon resume race riding after returning to trackwork this week.
As there have been no winners of the entire the Triple Trio pool across the past six day meetings in Hong Kong, a jackpot of over HK$39.3 million will be carried forward to the pool for this Sunday`s fixture at Sha Tin. It is estimated that a single HK$10 winning unit could pay up to HK$60 million, higher than any Triple Trio dividend so far throughout the 2021/22 racing season.
Sunday`s (20 November) meeting at Sha Tin starts with the Class 3 BOCHK Cross-Border Services Handicap (2000m) at 12.45pm.