Zac Purton is confident Exultant can make the most of having home advantage and get the better of Mogul in Sunday’s Longines Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin.
The Tony Cruz-trained six-year-old will bid to reclaim the mile-and-a-half prize he landed in 2018, after suffering a surprise odds-on defeat when finishing third in the race 12 months ago.
While respecting the challenge of Aidan O’Brien’s Mogul – the Grand Prix de Paris winner – Purton believes he will have his work cut out against the locals.
“Mogul is obviously a quality horse and is only young and seems to be improving all the time. He won the Grand Prix de Paris well in France and he ran well at the Breeders’ Cup last time,” said Purton.
“He will be hard to beat, like anything Aidan O’Brien sends over. I’d be thinking though that home ground advantage would play into our hands and I just hope that works in my favour.
“We are training on the track regularly and we don’t have to travel anywhere, which is always a big help. That said, it will still be a tough race.”
Exultant has finished second in both his starts this season, however, the reigning Hong Kong champion jockey expects the former Mick Halford-trained gelding to show his true colours back up in trip.
Purton said: “He is back up to his peak distance in the Vase. It is only a small field with not a lot of pace in the race, but hopefully I can find a nice spot for him and get him in a good rhythm.
“He started his season over 1,800 metres (nine furlongs) and he was giving weight away to the rest of the field. They went a strong gallop and he felt the weight late on.
“He was back up to 2,000 metres (10 furlongs) last time, he did a bit of work through the race and again it was run at a strong gallop which tested his fitness. He has had those two runs and he should be ready for this race.”
Beauty Generation may no longer be the force of old, but Purton retains plenty of faith in the David Hayes-trained eight-year-old, who will be bidding to claim a third success in the Longines Hong Kong Mile
He said: “He is starting to get a bit long in the tooth and his form is not quite as good as last season, but I’ve not given up on him though, and we have a good gate on Sunday (stall three).
“He has a couple of runs in the locker to get that residual fitness, but his best runs have been when he is fresh over the last 18 months, so he has been given the chance to show his best in this.
“It would be a fairy tale if he could come back and win the race again. If he runs like he did first time out, he will give himself a chance.”
With Inferno a late absentee in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint, Purton will now partner the Jimmy Ting-trained Amazing Star in the six-furlong Group One.
He said: “He has been impressive around Happy Valley and he ran OK at Sha Tin last time.
“He is not a young horse and he is only starting to emerge at six, but has drawn a good gate, so we will see how we go.”
The Royal Ascot-winning rider will head into the weekend full of confidence after landing his second Longines International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley on Wednesday.
Purton, who previously claimed the prize in 2017, said: “I drew some nice gates for a change which was good and although I had no stand-out rides, that gave them every chance to run as well as they could to pick up a few points and that is exactly what happened.
“It was a close end to it, as I dead-heated for third in the final race and that was enough to give me the two extra points to beat Joao (Moreira). I really needed that photo to go my way and luckily it did.”
Hollie Doyle has won plenty of admirers for her achievements in the saddle in Britain this season, and Purton was impressed with what he saw from her on her Hong Kong debut at Happy Valley.
The 24-year-old, who finished joint-third behind Purton with Alexis Badel, became the first female rider to win a leg at the meeting when steering Harmony N Blessed to victory in the finale.
He said: “I thought Hollie did really well, she picked up how to ride the track quickly.
“For someone coming to Happy Valley and being thrown into the fire like that, I was impressed with the way she handled the track and her results showed that.”