Pur­ton aboard South­ern Leg­end for Jan­uary Cup

The Citizen (KZN) - - Racing Express - Hong Kong

– South­ern Leg­end heads to Happy Val­ley today for the Grade 3 Jan­uary Cup Hand­i­cap over 1800m, aim­ing to prove his last run to be noth­ing more than a blip in an oth­er­wise ad­mirable cam­paign.

The high-class seven-year-old caused an up­set when de­feat­ing Grade 1 win­ners Ex­ul­tant and Time Warp in the Grade 3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Hand­i­cap (1800m) at Sha Tin in Novem­ber, but fin­ished well down the field be­hind Glory Vase in the Grade 1 Hong Kong Vase last time – his first at­tempt at 2400m.

Cas­par Fownes’ Grade 1-placed charge will re­unite with a for­mi­da­ble ally, cham­pion jockey Zac Pur­ton, who is set to take the reins for the first time since the pair bagged a sec­ond suc­ces­sive vic­tory in the SIN Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) in Sin­ga­pore last May.

“He’s been rac­ing well all sea­son – he looks as if he’s gone to an­other level this sea­son,” said Pur­ton, who be­lieves the geld­ing had a sound ex­cuse for fin­ish­ing more than 10 lengths off the win­ner last time.

The Aus­tralian ace part­nered the front-run­ning Ex­ul­tant to third place on that oc­ca­sion, with Al­berto Sanna stalk­ing him on the rail aboard South­ern Leg­end who faded out in the home straight. “The first half of the race was run fast and it was go­ing to be hard for South­ern Leg­end to end up stay­ing, so it was a good ef­fort in the end, I thought,” Pur­ton said.

South­ern Leg­end is a twotime win­ner from three starts at Happy Val­ley, his wins com­ing at 1200m back in 2017. His lat­est ef­fort at the track saw him run home sixth in this race last year, off the back of a fine third to Beauty Gen­er­a­tion in the pre­vi­ous month’s Group 1 Hong Kong Mile.

“It’s never easy in these Group 3 races to carry top-weight, it’s not an easy race,” Pur­ton noted. “Doc­tor Ge­off loves the Val­ley and he gets in with a good gate (3) and a nice weight, so he’s go­ing to be there as well. “And Sa­cred Cap­i­tal ran very well when he came (to Hong Kong) be­fore and if he re­peats that per­for­mance he’s go­ing to be very hard to beat.”

The nine-run­ner con­test also fea­tures the Val­ley’s 1800m track record holder Time Warp, last year’s win­ner Sim­ply Bril­liant, 2018 vic­tor Ea­gle Way, Har­mony Vic­tory, In­saysh­able and Not Usual Ta­lent.

Sa­cred Cap­i­tal is the one nonHong Kong run­ner in the field. The Ma­cau-based gal­loper re­turns to the city hav­ing placed fourth to South­ern Leg­end in the Ladies’ Purse.

Reg­u­lar part­ner Peter Ho was in the plate for that run but Hong Kong’s three-time cham­pion Joao Mor­eira is booked to take over this time.

The Brazil­ian rode the Joe

Lau-trained five-year-old in an all-weather track gal­lop at Sha Tin on Sun­day morn­ing, clock­ing 22.5sec for the fi­nal 400m.

“He’s a good-look­ing horse, he’s strong – I wish he was based over here, to be hon­est, be­cause he could be a top horse based on the way he presents and his abil­ity,” Mor­eira said of last year’s Ma­cau Derby win­ner.

“He’s go­ing into this race with a light enough weight, he’s a nice in­di­vid­ual and he seems like he’s go­ing in with a gen­uine chance.”

Sa­cred Cap­i­tal meets South­ern Leg­end on 1.5kg bet­ter terms – for a two-length mar­gin – than when the pair clashed in the Ladies’ Purse and Mor­eira be­lieves his mount might well turn that re­sult around.

“When he came over here and fin­ished be­hind South­ern Leg­end, he didn’t have much luck as he was ex­posed three deep – the horses around him pushed him back turn­ing for home, rather than tak­ing him for­ward.

“If he brings that form here, he’s a gen­uine chance – of course, we have to con­sider that he’s rac­ing at Happy Val­ley for the first time but I don’t see much dif­fer­ence be­tween Ma­cau and Happy Val­ley – they’re both tight cour­ses.”

Alexis Badel will never for­get his vic­tory aboard the Frankie Lor-trained Sim­ply Bril­liant in last year’s Jan­uary Cup.

The French­man hit the floor hard just a few strides af­ter seal­ing a first Group race win in Hong Kong and limped through the post-race for­mal­i­ties while nurs­ing his frac­tured wrist.

“The stew­ards even called me in and gave me two days and a HK$25,000 fine, so I was like this (hold­ing my hand to my chest), pretty white and couldn’t walk.

“I knew some­thing was wrong with the wrist,” he re­called.

Badel was back rid­ing two weeks later, even though the doc­tor had told him he would be out of ac­tion for closer to two months, a span that would have over­shot the end of his win­ter rid­ing con­tract.

Sim­ply Bril­liant fol­lowed a sound fourth in the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile by fin­ish­ing last of 10 in the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile.

“Based on the sec­ond-to-last race, he should run well,” said Badel. – Hong Kong Jockey Club

ZAC PUR­TON

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