Champion Hong Kong-based jockey Zac Purton aims to give Japan another Australian Group 1 victory when he rides the aptly named To The World in Saturday’s $4 million Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2000m at Randwick.
“To The World is one of the best horses that they have sent over, we know what his form was in Japan and his run at Rosehill the other day was very good,” said Purton.
“He was first-up there after quite a while off and, obviously, he got a bit tired on the line but I thought that he acquitted himself quite well.”
To The World is from the stables of leading Japanese trainer Yasutoshi Ikee and arrived in Sydney as one of the star attractions of the autumn carnival.
The four-year-old son of King Kamehameha holds an international rating of 120, making him the highest-rated Japanese horse to ever race in Australia.
He had twice finished runner up at Group 1 level in Japan, in the Japanese 2000 Guineas and the Arima Kinen, before finding Hartnell too strong in the Group 1 The BMW at Rosehill on March 28. That was his first race for three months.
Victorian jockey Nick Hall was sensationally sacked by Ikee from riding To The World in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and replaced by Purton, with the Japanese trainer attributing the decision to a ‘lack of trust and understanding’ between Hall and connections.
Ikee has been frustrated by race and trackwork tactics that Hall used on his horses.
Racing NSW stewards have determined that Hall had a firm booking to ride To The World in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and is entitled to 4.95 per cent of any prizemoney earned in the race.
Purton is happy to distance himself from that controversy and is instead focussed on the task at hand.
“I hope that To The World is a little bit fresh as he will be coming back 400m in distance from the BMW,” said Purton.
“I was a little bit concerned with the way that he came out of the gates, he was a bit sloppy and he will need to be much quicker this weekend.
“If he can put himself into a good position then there is no doubt that he has got the ability.
“I’m not so sure how he will go if the track is wet, I think that he prefers it pretty firm, so that has gotten me a little bit worried.
“But if I can get him out and into a good spot, and the track is ok, then he will be right in the finish.”
The Queen Elizabeth Stakes has assembled a star-studded field, including reigning Cox Plate champion Adelaide, dual autumn Group 1 winner Contributer, and last year’s Australian Derby winner Criterion.
“It’s a really good field assembled, and the barriers at the 2000m start are very important,” explained Purton.
“If you are drawn out wide then you have got to do a lot of work to get forward or go a long way back, it is really important to draw a good gate.
“I think that I have drawn well in barrier 5, but every horse is going to need to be on their game, there can’t be any chinks in anyone’s armour here.
“Contributor was fantastic last start and he has done nothing wrong, he will be right up there.
“The barrier will not be a negative for Adelaide as he will go back anyway, Ryan Moore knows him really well.
“Criterion ran a really nice race last start and 2000m is an ideal trip for him.
“It will not be easy for anyone.”