Time Warp (Zac Purton) scores a dominant front-running win in the Hong Kong Cup. Photo: Hong Kong Jockey Club.
On a day when plenty of the major prizes went the way of horses ridden on the speed, Time Warp and Zac Purton strolled away with the biggest one of all, the HK$25 million Gr. 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup.
The pair easily held New Zealand-bred star Werther for a two and a quarter length success, with Neorealism leading home a Japanese trio for the minor money.
Purton completed a personal grand slam of all four Longines Hong Kong International Races, and when asked if he saw another horse, he joked: “A couple behind the gates and then pulling up, but I don’t know where they were in between.”
Tony Cruz added another Hong Kong Cup to his back-to-back successes with California Memory in 2011 and 2012, and must have been delighted as Time Warp coasted along the Sha Tin back straight under minimal pressure from Smart Layer and Neorealism.
Turning for home, Werther emerged from the chasing pack, but by then Purton had let Time Warp engage overdrive and last year’s Hong Kong Horse of the Year was never closer than at the line.
“He has got a high cruising speed and he can kick off that,” said Purton of Time Warp. “When nothing attacks him, you can see how good he is.”
Purton revealed that his confidence in Time Warp – whose three previous attempts in Group company had yielded a third and two seconds – had only increased after going through the race with Cruz.
“I couldn’t see much speed on paper before the race, so unless anyone did anything differently, I thought I might be able to get my way in front,” said Purton.
“I had a very easy time and that was key to the result. Tony has a great deal of confidence in his horse and he rang me this morning specifically to talk about this one, so I thought he must have been pretty keen on him.”
Purton’s International Races collection started with Ambitious Dragon’s 2012 win in the Mile, continued with Dominant’s Vase in 2013 and was three-quarters complete by the time Aerovelocity took the first of his two Sprint successes in 2014.
“The jigsaw is complete, so I am pretty happy about that,” he said.
Purton had been a slightly peripheral figure during the three earlier features at this year’s meeting, with Gold Mount’s fifth-placed effort in the Vase his best return. But when it mattered most he combined perfectly with Time Warp, following Cruz’s instructions to the letter.
“I told Zac to stay cool, ride the way I want this horse to be ridden,” said Cruz, the former big race jockey never far from the surface.
“Zac did exactly what I wanted him to do. He just took him to the front and nobody was going to catch him. I said, ‘just wait for them to come, and when they push you, go. When they came, he just took off.”
Time Warp was cleverly campaigned by Newmarket training legend Sir Mark Prescott, who was at Sha Tin to witness the son of Archipenko’s international coming-of-age.
Prescott sent Time Warp for Listed wins in France at Saint-Cloud and the western provincial track at Craon.
Cruz knows the highways and byways of French racing better than most from his riding days.
“As you saw with the races he won in France, he loves to go to the front,” said Cruz. “Today I thought there were no speed horses and nothing was going to take us on. Even if they had done, they couldn’t do him for speed.”
His Hong Kong programme might well pick itself, with plenty of valuable 2000-metre prizes to be won going forward, while Cruz added that Time Warp might be the perfect galloper to travel abroad.
“The horse has been pushing me to run in this class of race and I believe there is a lot of horse in him,” he said. “Running 2000 metres around this course is perfect for him. If he has it his way, nobody can beat him.
“I would love to go abroad with him. He is a very versatile type of horse: he can go on the soft; he can go on the firm; he can go on the dirt too. I am sure this horse can go places. He is a very sound horse and he is a healthy horse. I haven’t done his programme, but I believe he can win elsewhere.”
Time Warp turned around a neck defeat to Werther in the Gr. 2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Cup, and John Moore was left to rue the way the race unfolded for his six-year-old son of Tavistock, who was never better than seventh running down the back.
“There was no speed up front and you couldn’t be where he was unfortunately,” said Moore.
“I wanted him to be ridden closer, but whatever happened, he just wasn’t there in the spot I wanted. It meant he had too much ground to make up and would have had to run an impossible sectional to win.
“He hasn’t disgraced and we can now look down the road to the Stewards’ Cup, Gold Cup and perhaps Dubai.”
Neorealism held the late thrust of fellow Carrot Farm challenger Staphanos by half a length for third. But the QEII Cup winner was unable to match the finishing burst of Time Warp, having failed to settle just behind the early pace for Joao Moreira.
“It was a fantastic run,” said Moreira. “He was a bit keen early and it took me quite a while to get him to relax but he did a very good job to finish third.”
The six-strong European challenge failed to play a serious part in the finish, with Poet’s Word the best of the sextet when running on for sixth after being seven-wide turning into the straight.