Hong Kong Diary

After a mid-week break, Sunday's Hong Kong racing is brought to you by the numbers three, four and eight. Zac Purton leads Joao Moreira by three atop the riders' table. Ricky Yiu leads Tony Cruz and Francis Lui by four as he chases his first trainers' title, and, there are just eight meetings left before the Season Finale at Happy Valley on July 15th. Sky Sports Racing screen the final two Group races of the season live on Sunday morning and Purton partners a familiar face when More Than This meets a Derby hero and a proven Group 1 performer in the Premier Plate.

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PURTON CALLS ON INNER TIGER AS TITLE BATTLE CONTINUES  

Zac Purton took time out from his duel with Joao Moreira for a round of golf this week and duly stole the show with his first ever hole in one.  

Tackling the 103-yard par 3 third on the Academy Course at Clearwater Bay, Purton wielded a 56 degree wedge and watched in wonder as the ball landed on the green and skipped into the hole.  

Captured on video and duly posted on Purton's Instagram account, the ace earned the Aussie a hug from wife Nicole and those in the bar a free drink at the 19th hole.  

"I still can't believe it," he said. "I'd given up thinking I'd ever get one and I'd never even seen one in real life before. The drinks didn't cost too much, luckily, but I might have a 'Hole In One Party' to celebrate again later on."    

CHAMPION HOPING MORE THAN THIS IS HIS ACE IN THE HOLE  

Purton's pursuit of a fourth title has slowed down recently and, with Moreira encountering similar problems, Sunday promises to provide another important duel between the two.  

Both men have full books of 11 rides and Purton is hoping that former Richard Fahey galloper More Than This can make the most of the weight he receives from high-class rivals Southern Legend and Furore in the Group 3 Premier Plate at 9.05.  

The powerful four-year-old has run a string of solid races in good company despite showing signs of laziness but Purton feels a break might have helped his prospects.  

"He makes life hard for himself and in the straight he's just been whacking away a little bit," he said. "But he's had a freshen up and he feels really good in his work. I think it's the best he's been working in recent times that I've been riding him - so I'm really happy with him."  

TEETAN LOOKING TO CAUSE A FURORE  

Karis Teetan is too modest to say as much but his actions are hinting that the big two of Hong Kong's weighing room could eventually become a big three.  

The Mauritian is enjoying another landmark season - with a second Group 1 aboard Mr Stunning as one of the highlights - and dominated last Sunday's Chairmen's Day card at Sha Tin with four consecutive winners including the smart Lakeshore Eagle in the feature event.  

Teetan says it would be "top notch" to beat last season's personal best of 84 and now needs four more winners to do so having outscored Purton and Moreira combined in recent weeks.  

Another full book of rides beckons at Sha Tin on Sunday including aboard last year's Derby winner Furore, who steps back in trip in the Premier Plate.  

Teetan is confident that Tony Cruz's gelding can handle the return to 1800m after two good efforts over further. "He's run so many good races so he definitely deserves a win like this to finish off the season," he said.  

WORLD POOL IN MOTION AS ONASSIS LEADS THE CHARGE  

Hong Kong has consolidated its status as a major hub for international pool betting with record sums wagered into the World Pool at Royal Ascot.  

Acting in conjunction with the Tote and various other international partners, Hong Kong hosted the World Pool for a second consecutive year and, with extra races and early starts a bonus, global interest boomed with turnover topping £120m on the first four days alone.  

HKJC Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said: "We have always believed there is huge potential for wagering into deep pools on top-class racing. This week has fully confirmed that view and the foundations are firmly in place for this exciting project to thrive as it is rolled out for a range of our major Simulcast events throughout the year."  

As usual in any pools with a Hong Kong connection, there was plenty of interest in exotic bets like the Quartet and anyone who polished up their crystal ball to name Onassis and the next three in correct order for Thursday's Sandringham Handicap was rewarded with a dividend of over £126,000 for a £1 stake.  

HIGH STREET PUNTERS BACK IN BUSINESS FROM MONDAY  

Meanwhile, Hong Kong punters will take an important step towards normality on Monday when the vast majority of the city's 100 Off Course Betting Branches re-open for business on non racedays.  

Betting shop punters were forced to move online once the effects of coronavirus became clear in February but, with the situation improving, the HKJC have decided to move forward while ensuring that a range of public health measures remain in place.  

Temperature tests, medical masks and social distancing will remain in place - and customers will have to vacate the premises once their bets are placed - but the move is seen as a particularly welcome step for older punters who still prefer to bet in the traditional manner.

Hong Kong Diary
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