Champion jockey gallops last season’s Classic Mile, Derby and QE II Cup victor for the first time as the Group One winner’s regular rider misses more meetings
Zac Purton galloped Romantic Warrior for the first time at Sha Tin on Tuesday, after which the champion jockey admitted he would love to ride last season’s multi-award-winning horse into his next battle if Karis Teetan’s health does not improve soon.
Purton expressed empathy for Teetan’s plight – the Mauritian jockey, who partnered Romantic Warrior to Classic Mile, Derby and QE II Cup wins last term, is sidelined indefinitely with thyrotoxicosis – but the Australian rider knows there is no room for emotion in the brutal business that is Hong Kong racing.
“It was nice to get a feel of him,” said Purton of Romantic Warrior, whose seven successes from eight runs in his first campaign earned him last season’s prestigious champion awards in the four-year-old, middle-distance and most-improved categories.
“He’s not going to run again until November, so we’ve still got a little bit of time. Poor Karis’ heart rate is quite high at the moment. We don’t want it to go too much higher – we want him to get better and come back to the races – but the possibility [of me riding him] is there.
“At 2,000m, I think he’s the best horse there’s in Hong Kong, so he’d be a good horse to ride.”
Amid the backdrop of Teetan missing meetings as a result of his condition – the symptoms of which include not only high heart rate but also muscle weakness – Purton went into detail about his past and present well-being.
“I’d say for a lot of last season I was riding at, probably, only 70 to 80 per cent of what I could do. At 80 per cent, I’ll always go out there and compete. I think when I’m at 80 per cent I can get the job done, but when I was at 70 per cent I was contemplating pulling the pin,” said Purton, who is actively seeking a ride in the Group One Melbourne Cup (3,200m) on November 1.
“I thought the off season would do me good, but being the Group One idiot I am, I had a hiccup and it held me back from getting to full fitness,” added Purton, who broke bones in his foot after jumping into the sea while holidaying in Maldives.
“I’m not able to train, run, ride a bike, hike or a lot of the other things I’d like to do. I’m still on the antigravity treadmill taking some weight off, swimming and trying to build myself up.
“I’m probably about 90 per cent at the moment. I’ve got a couple of things I’m working on. I’m doing about 12 hours of physio a week, so I think that in itself tells you things aren’t 100 per cent.
“But I’m working at it and it helps when you’ve got some nice horses. We’re coming into the better races now.
“John Size is giving me a bit of support, which is good, Jamie Richards is here as another stable to ride for, as well as the stables I always ride for, so I feel like I’ve got a good base to work off.”
Also looking to the future is Alexis Badel, who was aboard Wellington for the three-time Group One-winning sprinter’s second trial ahead of his scheduled reappearance in the Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m) on October 23.
“I came back from far behind and the horse hit the line very strong. He was very concentrated and his run was very good,” said Badel after Wellington was a fast-finishing neck second to Reve Parisien.
“It’s hard to say [if he’s improved] because he’s got a lot of personality – he’s not giving everything in the mornings, so it’s hard to judge – but he was very impressive last year, and hopefully he can be at least as good as he was last year.”
Other excellent Sha Tin triallers were Victor The Winner and Lightning Warrior, who won their respective heats by healthy margins.