Exultant showed all his class to dig deep and defend his crown in the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Known as Irishcorrespondent when with Michael Halford in Ireland, the Tony Cruz-trained six-year-old finished second in the Grade 1 feature in 2018, but went one better last year when beating Rise High by 1.25 lengths.
The Teofilo gelding, who had most recently held Furore in last month’s QEII Cup, was quickly on the heels of stablemate Time Warp in the final Grade 1 of the Hong Kong season.
Zac Purton’s mount was going best turning for home and had a clear advantage 400m out, but it was becoming hard work for the red-hot favourite with just over 200m and he looked like he might be swamped.
But while Chefano and Furore threw everything at him, Exultant would not be denied a fifth Grade 1 triumph of his career.
Purton said: “It’s never easy in small fields on the favourite. Everyone goes out to make life difficult and they tried to do that again today, but fortunately I was on a horse who can absorb some pressure and still fight out the finish.”
Having missed his ride on Fast Pace in Race 7 after a nasty stalls incident, the red-hot jockey was relieved to immediately hit back in a positive manner.
“I won – I’m ok. The Club was worried, I wasn’t!” he said.
“He’s the best stayer I’ve ridden in Hong Kong for sure and there’s no tougher horse I’ve ridden than this guy. He’s not flash in anything he does but just he gets the job done and probably deserves a little more credit than what he’s been getting.
It was another day where Purton and his title rival Joao Moreira dominated proceedings, with both riders bagging four-timers to end the day tied on 123 winners apiece.
Regarding the ongoing battle, Purton added: “It’s not much fun – I wish Joao would go home and make it easy!”
Winning trainer Cruz, who was landing the race for the seventh time in the last eight years, said: “His attitude is what sets him apart and Zac’s relationship with him is fantastic. I think he’s the best stayer of all.” – sportinglife.com