Hong Kong's famous jockey merry-go-round has made an unexpected stop this week but the ride goes on at full speed for championship leaders Joao Moreira and Zac Purton. The big two shared five winners at Sha Tin on Sunday and can be expected to be in the spotlight again in front of the Sky Sports Racing cameras at Happy Valley this Wednesday.
Van Niekerk fired with immediate effect
One of the most promising recent starts to a HK riding career has come to a jarring halt after the HKJC announced that Grant Van Niekerk's licence has been withdrawn with immediate effect.
The 28-year-old South African was enjoying a fine second season - fifth in the table with 37 winners worth around £5m in prize money - but his stay has come to an abrupt end with a simple Press release which stated that his dismissal was due to a "conduct-related matter which does not pertain to any race riding or other racing integrity related matter."
Local media are reporting that a domestic dispute is at the heart of the issue. Andrew Harding, the Club's Executive Director of Racing, said: "There has never been any police involvement in anything that has led the Club to make the decision."
Strong pace should suit Stronger ideally
Zac Purton trails Joao Moreira by 97-95 at the top of the HK jockeys' table and the big two have their usual share of strong chances on Wednesday's Happy Valley card.
Purton comes in for a decent spare when replacing Van Niekerk aboard Young Legend in the Hong Tung Handicap at 2.15, while the in-form Diamond Brilliant looks one of Moreira's strongest chances in the race.
John Moore's gelding was very impressive when setting a new Class 3 track record over course and distance in February and seemed to see too much daylight from a wide draw at Sha Tin on his latest start.
A return to the Valley should suit and, with Moment Of Power, Winner Supreme and This Is Class set to force a demanding pace, the tactical setup of this £200,000 handicap looks very much in his favour.
Size faces dilemma after Waikuku flop
The problem with dress rehearsals is that things often fail to go to plan and connections of several members of HK's A List left Sha Tin in rueful mood on Sunday night.
Waikuku's relentless progress came to a halt with a rare dull effort behind Beauty Generation in the Chairman's Trophy and his trainer John Size now faces an awkward choice ahead of the Champions Mile.
Pushing on to the £2m contest in just over two weeks means putting Waikuku through a barrier trial and Size has never been known for rushing horses.
Need to lead puts wayward Aethero under a cloud
Evidence is building to suggest that nothing good happens when the hulking youngster can't lead round a bend and, after missing the break and copping a hefty bump as the stalls opened, he refused to relax and beat a tame retreat.
Moore has one last chance to win a G1 with Aethero before he leaves HK in July and landing the Chairman's Sprint Prize just three weeks after this heavy defeat would rank upsides anything in his long and storied career.