ENTHUSIASTIC racegoers and betting mad locals have a major problem at Happy Valley in Hong Kong this afternoon.
Their hero and main benefactor, ‘Magic Man’ Joao Moreira, is not riding. The champion jockey is having to suffer an enforced holiday after being suspended.
Normally the majority of the expected 20,000 crowd would join in the Oktoberfest party taking place in the Beer Garden.
Take a taste of the finest German beer and sausages, listen to traditional Bavarian music and then at the last moment place their bets on whatever Moreira was riding.
The good news is, the majority of races have an open look about them, and should offer some value for money propositions.
Australian and former champion jockey Zac Purton, who did this column a favour a couple of weeks back when riding a four-timer, will be looking to take centre stage again, with a strong half-dozen book of rides.
The likes of hat-trick seeking Speedy Wally (2.15pm), Chung Wah Spirit (2.45pm), who finished second last time out, and prolific winner Archippus (3.15pm) all have major chances.
However, his highlight ride on the card could be HEROIC GURU in the 1.45pm.
This David Hall-trained seven-year-old had already been sharpened up with a couple of six furlongs races in September, before he lined-up over the extended mile at the Valley last week.
On that occasion, star claimer Matthew Poon miscalculated the slow tempo in the middle part of the race, and left himself with far too much to do when dashing down the home stretch.
The fact Heroic Guru was near last turning into the short home straight, but still managed to finish fourth, producing the fastest closing sectional time over the last 400m, suggests he would have gone close had he been on the pace.
Poon has been substituted, and connections have opted for Purton which is a tip in itself. The last time horse and jockey combined was when they won over the track and trip back in June 2016 from a 2lbs higher mark.
David Hall and Purton had an impressive 27% win strike-rate together last term, and will fancy their chances of improving on that figure.
In an open betting contest, it could pay to have a saver on LOTUS STRIKES BACK.
This former UK import, known as Synergise when winning his only race for trainer Roger Varian, produced an eye-catching run when fourth over a trip short of his best at the Valley two weeks back.
This course and distance winner has been allocated the inside stall, which will hopefully set him up for a dream trip.
Earlier in the afternoon, keep an eye on VERY RICH MAN in the 1.15pm over six furlongs.
This fast-starting five-year-old has drawn an all-important low number which guarantees him the chance to get over to the rails and lead from the off.
On his previous start, he suffered a tough journey from an awkward draw, and was then knocked all over the place in the closing stages.
He still managed to finish fifth, beaten just over two lengths by the winner, and with useful claimer Dylan Mo now taking off 7lbs, he’ll be hard to peg back.
Very Rich Man 1.15pm Happy Valley
Heroic Guru 1.45pm Happy Valley
Lotus Strikes Back e/w 1.45pm Happy Valley