Championship winner Purton receives well wishes from Aussie star Warner
The International Jockeys' Championship on Wednesday captivated the 29,294 people in attendance at Happy Valley, but it also captured the imagination of a worldwide television audience, with star Australian batsman David Warner among those paying attention to proceedings.
Hong Kong-based Australian Zac Purton took the honours and the HK$500,000 (£47,870) prize, giving cause for double celebration after Australia had earlier taken a 2-0 series lead over England in the Ashes.
Purton said: "It was a good day with Australia winning the cricket as well and a couple of the boys text me well done this morning.
"Dave Warner is a good mate of mine. He loves racing, and especially having a punt.
"He's owned a few horses but I've not ridden for him – his horses aren't good enough for me!"
Purton will be riding a couple of horses familiar to British viewers at Sunday's Hong Kong International Races. In the Hong Kong Vase he rides Gold Mount, who won the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot for Alan King last year when called Primitivo, while in the Hong Kong Cup he takes the ride on Time Warp, who was a progressive dual Listed winner when with Sir Mark Prescott.
Stephen Higgins, the Hong Kong Jockey Club's head of raceday operations, tracks and racing facilities, will be keeping a close eye on how Danehill Kodiac fares in the Vase after recommending the horse's purchase when he was rated just 84 last year.
Higgins, who used to ride out for Richard Hannon and worked at Newbury and for Arena Racing Company prior to moving to Hong Kong, also played a key role in the owners acquiring Lil Rockerfeller, who has won at Grade 2 level and was runner-up in the Stayers' Hurdle.
Higgins said: "Lil Rockerfeller was big and weak but I rode him regularly from April through to when he went to the sales in September  and he just carried on improving.
"When he ran at Newbury in August I told Andy [Smith, current part-owner], who was working as a bookmaker, to go and have a look because he's a big horse and will definitely jump a hurdle. When he went to the sales I was badgering Andy to buy him. He didn't but I called him the day after to say Neil King had bought him and to go and see him."
Smith evidently liked what he saw as he bought Lil Rockerfeller, and after the horse had been so successful asked Higgins to keep an eye out for another horse.
Higgins added: "I went in to ride out one Saturday morning and [head lad] Tony Gorman said: 'I've got one for your guys – the old man [Richard Hannon snr] has bought him but he wants to sell him'. It was the Saturday before Royal Ascot and Danehill Kodiac ran in their colours on the Thursday."
Nick Smith, Ascot's director of racing and communications, has arrived in Hong Kong on his latest scouting mission.
Smith has been a driving force behind bringing many international stars to Royal Ascot and will be paying particularly close attention to the Hong Kong Sprint, with Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal and John Size's quartet – which includes likely favourite Mr Stunning – among those of interest.
Looking for positive signs
French raider Signs Of Blessing will have to please the vet in order to take part in Sunday's Longines Hong Kong Sprint.
The Group 1 winner was found to have a mild blood abnormality, which was most likely caused by the long-distance travel.
A statement from Kim Kelly, chief stipendiary steward, read: "Dr Peter Curl, executive manager of veterinary regulation, has advised the stewards that Signs Of Blessing, trained by Mr Francois Rohaut and declared to compete in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint on Sunday, was found upon routine health screening to show evidence of a mild blood abnormality after arriving in Hong Kong. Dr Curl has informed that this condition was most likely related to long-distance travel.
"Dr Curl has further advised that Signs Of Blessing has responded well to treatment, and accordingly has been able to be worked on the training tracks in recent days.
"The horse’s condition will continue to be monitored and a further release will be issued at the appropriate time."
The Europeans have already lost a contender in the Sprint after James Fanshawe's The Tin Man was withdrawn after arriving in Hong Kong with a fever.
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