Hong Kong Diary

The rain has arrived in HK but the winners have dried up for Zac Purton and Joao Moreira, who have saluted just three times from their last 57 mounts over the last three fixtures at Sha Tin and Happy Valley. The big two will be expected to bounce back when racing returns to the Valley this Wednesday, where a nine-race card gets under way at 11.45 on Sky Sports Racing.

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Higgins hails track team as Hurricane hits

As a former MD at Newbury and Racing and Property Director at ARC, Stephen Higgins is well versed in the art of precautionary inspections after heavy rain.

Something in the region of 50mm in a 24-hour period would generally have most clerks reaching for their oversized caps and pointed sticks, but Sha Tin's Sunday card went ahead with no problems despite a near 500mm deluge that left various parts of the New Territories flooded.

Higgins, now in his third year as the HKJC's head of race day operations, kept a close eye on the first black rainstorm to hit HK in three years and logged a total of 479mm of rain (almost 19 inches in old money) between 3am on Saturday and the end of racing on Sunday.

"There aren't too many racetracks in the world that can take that level of precipitation in such a short period with that intensity," he said. "Most tracks would be out for a week after that but it's an incredible surface and it remained safe and raced well."

Stephen Higgins

Young guns ride out the storm

Moreira rode seven of the first eight favourites but only managed to get one of them home as Matthew Poon and Alfred Chan dominated, the two homegrown youngsters snaring four and three winners respectively on a day when front runners seemed in their element.

Poon's progress was checked by a series of suspensions last season - and he misses Wednesday's Valley card due to another careless riding ban - but his 25 winners this term have collected well over £3m in prize money.

Chan's first treble was sealed aboard Baltic Whisper with a last-gasp defeat of the Moreira-ridden War of Courage and, with ten wins in the last seven weeks, his 7lb claim should continue to be a useful asset for the rest of the season.

Matthew Poon
Matthew Poon celebrates his Sha Tin four timer

Big two aiming to bounce back

Purton's forgettable Sunday - with just one third from nine mounts - was followed by a spiky Twitter response to a local scribe who suggested that he "walked out of Sha Tin steaming that Moreira wasn't suspended after interfering with his horse in the final event."

Moreira copped a severe reprimand from the stewards having let Dan Control drift across Purton and Morethanlucky but battle resumes on Wednesday and, with Purton 128-124 ahead in the title race, both key players feel winners are becoming harder to come by.

Speaking to the HKJC's David Morgan, Purton said "there are a lot of tired horses out there now that we're at the tail end of the season and results can be a little mixed." Moreira added that "at this time of the year it's the wet season so the surface can become a lottery."

Zac Purton
Winners have become harder to come by for title-leading jockey Zac Purton.

Sky looks the limit as Moreira climbs aboard

Lottery or not, punters will be leaning heavily on Purton and Moreira again under the Valley lights and both riders have a handful of strong chances.

Purton looks loaded towards the back end of the card, with in-form Cinquante Cinq and hat-trick seeking Compassion Spirit both looking to hold solid claims in the 2.45 and 3.15 respectively.

Moreira seems confident that the ultra-progressive Hong Kong Win can stay one jump ahead of the handicapper in what promises to be an explosive finale at 3.15, while the fact that the Magic Man climbs aboard the unexposed Sky Darci for Caspar Fownes in the 2.15 is also well worth noting.

Hong Kong Diary
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