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How to avoid paying the ‘Zac Tax’: Purton drawn outside is no barrier to success

This week our Hong Kong form analyst highlights Zac Purton’s remarkable record from tricky draws and zeroes in on some promising 2023 Hong Kong Derby types.

That Zac Purton has been dominating the Jockey ranks in Hong Kong this season is no secret. Most punters have even been quite happy to pay the well-coined ‘Zac Tax’, the slice of unders or lower odds than expected for the pleasure of Zac steering your chosen runner. Sometimes the combination of Zac Tax and a wide draw are just too much to bear for the average punter, but in reality, the opposite might be true. 

So far this season Purton has ridden 51 winners from 185 rides, a strike rate of 27.5 percent. A quick look at his results tells us he has ridden 13 winners from 51 double-figure draws, or the outside gate in a smaller field than 10. That’s a strike rate of 25.5%; so in reality, to the punter, Purton drawn wide is not necessarily a disadvantage. Backers of Accelerando (barrier 11, paid $2.30), Super Red Dragon (14, $8.70) and Packing Treadmill (12, $2.30) last Sunday can attest to that.  

Keefying an eye on the four-year-old series

While it appears all downhill skiing for Purton at the minute, he did have his hands full on at least one occasion at Sha Tin. Beautyverse, the first-up winner from the Tony Cruz barn did not make Purton’s life easy at his second start in Hong Kong. Sent out the 2.1 favourite in the Class 1 feature, Beautyverse appeared to be more than a little cantankerous early in the event and raced keenly throughout, leaving nothing in the tank for the business end of the race. Assuming the horse has no ailments, he should present a better proposition next time he steps out.

Keefy, on the other hand, staked a serious claim for the four-year-old series with a devastating win. With the Frankie Lor polish, third-up from a spell, Keefy disposed of his fellow four-year-old series hopefuls with ease, along with the rest of the Class 1 field. 

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Keefy and Derek Leung cruise home in Class 1 company. (Photo by HKJC)

Keefy will now have a rating in the high 90s and the strong win over a mile will be put him right up in the reckoning when the conversation moves from the HKIR to the four-year-old series, which starts with the Classic Mile on January 29. Accelerando and Sweet Encounter also made smaller claims towards the series with impressive victories in their own right on the same day. 

Hong Kong International Sale synchronicity for Shum

While we’re on the subject of the four-year-old series, a stablemate of last year’s Derby winner Romantic Warrior stepped out last Wednesday night and there are more similarities in the two than first meets the eye.

Nordic Dragon was purchased through the Hong Kong International Sale, just like his illustrious stablemate. And just like his stablemate, who cost HK$4.8 million at the sale, Nordic Dragon was no bargain at HK$7 million. Nordic Dragon also  made his debut in the same Class 4 1200m race won by Romantic Warrior last year. The coincidence doesn’t end there, not only did he win the same race, but he also beat the same horse: Melbourne Hall.  

A quick look over the sectionals makes for interesting reading. Last year, Romantic Warrior won the Class 4 in 1.09.4 on the night the Class 2 ran 1.09.1, and Romantic Warrior’s last 400m of 22.7s compared to the final of the Class 2 of 22.84. Clearly the signs were there that Romantic Warrior had potential for better. 

Nordic Dragon’s numbers are not to be sneezed at either. Comparing with the better of the two Class 3  ‘1200s’ on the night we see Nordic Dragon ran 1.09.8 compared to the Class 3 of 1.09.3, and Nordic Dragon’s final 400m was a respectable 23.35s, while the Class 3 ran 23.38s. When you consider that rain fell between races on Wednesday night, deteriorating the track a little before he raced, and that Nordic Dragon also won comfortably, it’s not too long a bow to suggest the runs were reasonably similar.

Now we’re not suggesting Nordic Dragon will be as good as Romantic Warrior. And even the  comparison has its faults with the race being Romantic Warrior’s second run and Nordic Dragon was on debut, but it will be interesting to monitor the next move of trainer Danny Shum to see whether he mirrors the career of his champion with this young talent. He has earmarked a return to Happy Valley as the likely next assignment so we will follow him with great curiosity. 

‘Prophet Of Probability’ is a professional punter with specialist knowledge of Hong Kong racing. Due to professional considerations, he does not wish to be named.

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