Top Act centre stage in Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse triumph

OReilly galloper Top Act stole the show at Sha Tin on Sunday,with a determined victory in the day’s feature race, the HKG3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (Handicap, 1800m), first staged in 1846 and the centrepiece of Hong Kong’s annual chic-fest, Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Day.

Tony Millard was beaming after jockey Richard Fourie executed a triumph long in the planning and the trainer’s sights are now set on the G2 LONGINES Jockey Club Cup (2000m) in two weeks. Beyond that, a tilt at December’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races could enter the South African handler’s planning.

“He’s been great today,” said Millard after the five-year-old held at bay Romantic Touch and the fast-finishing Ensuring to capture the prize before a crowd of more than 72,000. “We planned this path for him at the end of last season,” continued Millard. “He won five races for us and has really come into it. I had him a touch big today and he’s still improved.

“We will take him for the 2000-metre race next and if he goes well there, maybe we can supplement for the HKIR meeting. It’s been step-by-step with him. I never really push them, just let them come into it, and he’s been one like that, he’s really just done it on his own.”

Top Act (115lb) enjoyed a dream run under Fourie who managed to find a handy berth from gate six, one width off the rail and a couple of lengths behind the reluctant leader, Flame Hero. When the latter’s jockey, Derek Leung, kicked on the turn into the home stretch, the response was limited. Fourie, meanwhile, arms pumping in determination from 500m out, found a willing response from Top Act. The O’Reilly gelding battled on and edged the lead with 300m remaining.

“I had a lovely draw, managed to settle fourth, got good momentum coming into the straight, and, with a light weight, when they came to press him, he quickened away from them and then had enough to win,” said Fourie.

Last season’s HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) third Romantic Touch (114lb) pressed the winner inside as third-placed Ensuring (115lb) powered home on Top Act’s stands side flank, closing to within a half-length at the wire under Joao Moreira. But the victory was Top Act’s as the New Zealand-bred held on by a neck, stopping the clock at 1m 47.06s.

“When the other horses came to him he found a little bit more,” said Fourie. “I hadn’t quite gone on him, I let him quicken and then allowed him to idle a bit. When I asked him in the last furlong there was a little bit more and he kept plugging.”

The South African has endured a lean time this term, with only two wins on the board since returning to Hong Kong in August, and was duly delighted to have landed one of Hong Kong’s most prominent domestic features. The rider notched 34 wins in his only previous Hong Kong campaign back in 2012/13.

“It’s hard work here, they’re tough races all the time and it’s good experience to ride here. When you get chance rides you just have to make the most of them and win as many as you can,” he said.

The Jockey Club Races, the main lead-up contests for the Hong Kong International Races (13 December), will take place on Saturday, 21 November and comprise the LONGINES Jockey Club Cup (2000m), BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile and BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m).

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