Stats prove Purton is a worthy champ
The Sha Tin stewards effectively stopped the fight when hitting Joao Moreira with a careless riding ban in Sunday's nightcap but Zac Purton was already well in front on all scorecards after a treble took him six clear at the top of the table with a fourth championship his for the taking.
As is the way after most bruising bouts, the respective combatants paid due respect. Purton described the ten-month campaign as “the hardest-fought of all the championships I've had," while Moreira added that "Zac rode very well and deserves it" before conceding that "I maybe didn't ride as well in the last month and a half or two months of the season."
Dig a little deeper and it's hard to disagree with Moreira's verdict. Purton's inability to ride light means he has had fewer rides than Moreira (681-708) and fewer mounts on favourites (235-267). Moreira went a dozen clear after a five timer on HKIR day in December but Purton wore him down relentlessly for the second time in three years and his Valley prowess - with 58 winners from 250 rides - has played a crucial role.
Moore at the treble as departure day looms
John Moore, the most successful trainer in Hong Kong racing history, will retire at the end of the season.
This is his story of a career spanning across five decades in Hong Kong, leaving behind a legacy that will last forever. #HKracing
📺 FULL VIDEO: https://t.co/fpUoHaS1Vv pic.twitter.com/39VIRPEgDi
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) July 6, 2020
The Bated Breath gelding was also completing a treble for trainer John Moore, who departs HK for a new training venture in Australia next week but has no intention of severing ties with the longstanding owners he leaves behind.
"It's got to be emotional because I've spent so much of my life in Hong Kong," he said. "My wife is Chinese and our home is here and, while we'll be in Australia for a lot of the time, I'll be back here very often. I think I'll keep my Diamond Membership with Cathay!"
Summit and Smokey join HK transfer trail
Smokey Bear 🐻 (Kodiac @HoStud )left us over the weekend to head to Hong Kong after being purchased privately. He has been a star after winning his last 3 races and is sure to do very well out there. Very sad to see him leave @henmichael . pic.twitter.com/JT1gN5Uf1Z
— Roger Charlton (@RogerCharlton) July 5, 2020
HK owners Lily and Marc Chan bought The Summit before his fine second to Mishriff at Chantilly. The Wootton Bassett colt is expected to join Awe as part of a powerful team being assembled by returning HK handler David Hayes next season, while Smokey Bear has been purchased privately since completing a hat-trick in impressive style at Newmarket last month.
Yiu seeking another late show with progressive Harvest
The race for the HK trainers' title has developed a Groundhog Day element in recent weeks as Ricky Yiu, Francis Lui and Tony Cruz battle for supremacy.
Three meetings to go. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/o9cqmPC6pl
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) July 6, 2020
Lui and Cruz keep hitting the board early to pressurise Yiu but the current leaders keeps staging an impressive late show with big-priced winners and did so again on Sunday as Shining Gem came from well back to land the finale at 15-1 under Derek Leung. Yiu leads Lui by one with Tony Cruz four off the pace and Vincent Ho - who has ridden 12 winners from 51 rides for Yiu this term - is hoping to enhance that impressive strike rate aboard the progressive Eternal Harvest in the Babington Handicap at 3.15.
"He's in good form and last start he sat behind the pace and then kicked on really strongly," said Ho. "Ricky is doing well winning those later races. Hopefully he can do it again because I want to win as well!"
Shinn seeks fame with Fortune as exciting newcomer impresses
One good horse is all it needs to set a rider on his way and, after a strange first season in HK, Blake Shinn is hoping he has found the right vehicle in Sunday's runaway debut winner Joyful Fortune.
Joyful Fortune cruises to a comfortable debut win for @blake_shinn, clocking a slick 55.07s to set a new Class 4 1000m record! 🔥 #HKracing pic.twitter.com/6kEhxh5bXv
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) July 5, 2020
David Hall's Aussie import came with a tall reputation after a series of impressive barrier trials and duly bolted up on his debut, powering clear of Class 4 rivals and, assisted by a tailwind, recording the third fastest 1000m time at Sha Tin in over a decade.
Shinn's HK frustrations are summed by the fact that he has 42 seconds to go with his 13 winners this term but the former Melbourne Cup-winning rider is determined to turn things around. “It’s pretty satisfying for myself, for David, the owners and the whole stable,” he said. “Trials are one thing but races are another and he stood up today. He delivered in spades."