With just days to go to the LONGINES Hong Kong International races at Sha Tin on Sunday, the racing crazy city is buzzing with excitement!
And a man who could play a key role is Zac Purton, who iss under no illusions that Lucky Sweynesse must take another upward step to win the Gr1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint when he takes on a high-quality field of local and international sprinters.
The doubters were questioning whether the world’s highest-rated sprinter would recapture last season’s outstanding season when he returned with two seconds before narrowly winning the BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) at his last run at Sha Tin on 19 November.
After failing in last December’s sprint, Lucky Sweynesse then went to another level, winning six races in succession, including three at Group One level.
“He was in a real purple patch of form last year, reeling off all those wins,” Purton said.
“He was impressive and he has just struggled this season to get back to that level, but I feel as though he is getting back there now and has had a couple of runs to get back to his best.
“I think he showed that in his last run.
“The horse is trying hard and doing his best and I think he is in the best shape he has been in all season for this.”
Purton is hoping for a good barrier draw and dry track.
“But I am looking forward to the race and I think he is ready,” the Australian said.
Despite talk of Lucky Sweynesse’s first two runs from a spell being disappointing when the expectations of the champions were so high, Purton said the gelding had legitimate excuses for failing to add to his winning tally.
“He ran first up on a wet track and he doesn’t like wet tracks,” Purton said. “The previous worst run in his career was at Happy Valley on a wet track.”
In his first-up run this campaign, Purton said that as well as Lucky Sweynesse striking a wet track, he had to lump top-weight and was still building on his fitness which he said added up to a lot going against the horse.
“Then they walked and went really slow and sprinted home,” Purton said.
“The winner (Victor The Winner) ran home in 21.4s and you can’t give any horse a start and expect to catch him, so he had things against him.
“He was carrying big weights and giving a lot of weight away to really progressive horses as well and last time he was in a set weight penalty and got out of the gates better and was in a better spot. He was able to win even though they went out not too fast and he sprinted home. He was just in the right spot to be able to get the job done.”
Meeting the opposition on Sunday at set weights, plus with an extra run and with natural improvement, Purton said Lucky Sweynesse was in good shape.
Lucky Sweynesse finished sixth in last year’s race and encountered problems when the tiring Singapore raider Lim’s Kosciuszko started to drop back in the field.
The barrier draw of three didn’t suit Lucky Sweynesse under the circumstances and Purton found himself locked away with nothing he could do about it.
“It was disappointing but here we are 12 months later and hopefully we can get the right run,” he said.
The Manfred Man-trained gelding’s first run back this campaign was when he was beaten by Victor The Winner, in the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap at Sha Tin on 10 September.