Magic Man singing in the rain
Joao Moreira surged ten clear of Zac Purton at the top of the jockeys' table with a brilliant four timer at a drizzly Happy Valley on Wednesday.
The Magic Man made it three for the night when the highly progressive Sky Darci defied stall 12 in the style of a smart youngster for Caspar Fownes and signed off in the nightcap when stablemate Columbus County quickened much too well for a strong field.
Moreira makes it four! 🔥
Joao Moreira seals a quarter of wins at Happy Valley with an impressive rail-hugging drive aboard Columbus County. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/4xuqGJ9DZT
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) October 28, 2020
Fownes felt that Columbus County "treated them with contempt and blew them away" to spark thoughts of a possible step up to Group 2 level for the Jockey Club Cup on November 22nd.
Stats illustrate Purton's title dilemma
Meanwhile, it is looking like Fownes could be the king in the trainers' title race for a fourth time and perhaps kingmaker in the race to be Champion Jockey.
Wednesday's double took Fownes six clear of Tony Cruz, Frankie Lor and Francis Lui but a deeper dive shows he is a striking 10-33 when linking up with Moreira and only 1-9 with Purton.
The fact that Purton hasn't ridden for Fownes since September 23rd is noteworthy. It suggests a once-lucrative relationship has cooled off. But it needs to warm up again if the Aussie is to reel in the Brazilian in the way he did both last season and two years earlier.
Fownes feels Dragon can blow hot
Fownes is two handed in Sunday's Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies' Purse and, although last year's winner Southern Legend returns in fine form after finishing third in Golden Sixty's Sha Tin Trophy over a mile, it's hard to escape the conclusion that he thinks Dances With Dragon could be his ace.
"Southern Legend doesn't know he's eight and ran enormous the other day, three wide no cover," he said. "He was gallant in defeat and will be very close."
But Dances With Dragon came home strongly for fifth two weeks ago and is ready to peak over an extra furlong according to his handler.
"This is his race, the one I've targeted him for all season," Fownes added. "He ran really well last up, closing off with a great sectional, and I'd say he will be very hard to beat over 9f getting 16lb off Exultant."
Punters face weighty concern as Exultant returns
Exultant poses punters a problem when he reappears after a lengthy summer break. Fourth and third in the last two renewals of this Group 3 handicap, he is clearly capable of going very close at his best but will he be fully tuned up for his first run since May?
Kirk Wong, son of owner Eddie Wong talks through his ❤️ for Exultant ahead of the champs seasonal return in Sunday's G3 Sa Sa Ladies' Purse. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/aIUU208eme
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) October 30, 2020
Purton feels the former Irish Guineas third is "up against It" conceding weight to a strong field over his minimum distance, while trainer Tony Cruz reports his stable star in good shape but sounds a note of caution by saying "this is just a lead-up" to the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup in three weeks' time.
Whatever happens on Sunday, ratings suggest Exultant is by far the best hope of keeping the Longines Hong Kong Vase at home on December 13th. The six-year-old has finished first and third in the last two renewals and has that race high on his agenda again this winter.