Hong Kong Diary

Hong Kong racing has become a two-man shootout of late, with Zac Purton and his arch rival Joao Moreira partnering no fewer than 25 of the last 30 winners. The big two go head to head again in all eight races at Happy Valley this Wednesday and Sky Sports Racing is the place to see if they can continue their hot streaks.

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Records tumble as Purton’s hot streak continues

June started much as May had ended for Zac Purton, with a second consecutive Sha Tin six timer that took him to a personal best of 140 and sparked talk of a tilt at Joao Moreira’s record of 170 winners in a HK season.

Purton would have to average almost three winners a meeting to break the record but he has been on that pace for the last month or so and his ability to make the difference in tight finishes was on show again on Sunday aboard Little Wise Man and Band of Brothers.

Records have been coming thick and fast for the Aussie and, having broken Joao Moreira’s record of six G1’s in a season, he also went past his own previous best of 136 and the Brazilian’s single-season stakes record of a little over HK$207m at the weekend.

For the record, Purton’s 585 mounts from just 77 meetings since September have now collected the equivalent of around 21m sterling.

By way of comparison, that’s about the same as Frankie Dettori, Ryan Moore, Oisin Murphy, James Doyle, William Buick, Jim Crowley and Silvestre de Sousa collected from a combined total of around 4500 rides in the entire calendar year of 2018.

Champion’s on the Way to Classic Series

Moreira and John Size remain the main stumbling blocks to Purton domination and Champion’s Way ended his first HK season with a sixth win from seven starts in Sunday’s G3 Lion Rock Trophy.

The three-year-old still doesn’t look quite the finished article – Moreira said he was “snaking around” as he drifted left – but Size doesn’t hand plaudits out lightly and his view that the victory was “full of merit” is notable.

History shows it’s tough for three-year-olds to win HK Group races and the last one to win the Lion Rock Trophy – Rapper Dragon – went on to capture all three legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic series including the Derby in 2017.

Time will tell whether Champion’s Way can follow a similar path and his pedigree raises doubts as to whether the Derby trip of 2000m will suit. But the canny Size is happy to leave the stamina debate for another day.

Sunday’s success means Champion’s Way is now rated 108, just 1lb lower than the mark Furore recorded to win this year’s Derby. In other words, he needs only to maintain his form to set the bar high for the Aussie and Euro imports making their way to HK over the next few months.

Purton and Moreira taking the high road

Purton’s prospects of extending his golden run on a Bollywood-themed night at Happy Valley this Wednesday have been done no favours by the draw, with his eight mounts drawn 7, 4, 7, 11, 11, 12, 11 and 3 respectively.

Snap Fit is drawn 7 on his return from a lengthy break in the Mount Gough Handicap at 1.15 and has to be respected after a highly encouraging winning debut over course and distance back in January.

The Abraxas looks a lively outsider back at the minimum trip in a visor after showing fine speed over 1200m on his last two runs and Hong Kong Win completes the short list under Moreira.

John Size’s gelding has shown plenty of speed on his last two runs but paid the penalty for pressing a fierce pace in the race won by Everbrave here last month. Hong Kong Win can reverse that form with a 4lb pull and stall 12 will be less of a hardship than normal if Moreira can get him out and running early again.

Karis to call the tune on Rockstar and company

Purton partners an interesting newcomer in a winnable Mount Nicholson Handicap at 1.45.

Valley trial winner Reliable Team is the horse in question, but fellow debutant Packing Rockstar clocked a faster time when scoring in the same trial session and Karis Teetan’s mount looks very nicely drawn in stall 2 whereas Purton and Reliable Team are out wide in 11.

Moreira will corner a big slice of the market aboard bang-in-form Perfect Pair in the Shouson Hill Handicap at 2.45 – and rightly so – but Stimulation is in better shape than his recent form figures imply and has dropped to a mark that makes him an appealing longshot with Teetan aboard again.

Last but not least, Teetan partners another interesting contender when Smart Leader lines up for the Violet Hill Handicap at 3.15.

This is a wide-open sprint with plenty of horses in good form but Smart Leader scores well for reliability and is much better drawn than when finishing a clear second over course and distance on his latest start.

Hong Kong Diary
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