‘WHEN the cats away the mouse will play’ is the old adage that springs to mind when looking at a distinctly tricky looking card at Happy Valley this afternoon.
Okay, so I have changed the word from mice to mouse, but that’s because ‘Magic Man’ Moreira is again taking another enforced holiday for some riding misdemeanour.
This sets up his main rival Zac Purton, who is five behind his rival with an ideal opportunity to overtake the reigning champion in the jockey’s title race come the weekend.
With the inner-city track hosting both race meetings this week, Purton will be licking his lips with anticipation that he can overtake Moreira by Sunday evening.
There is no disputing he is the master of the Valley, having already ridden 10 winners in just seven meetings this season, securing a 22% strike-rate.
The Australian has a ride in all eight races, and you can guarantee all his mounts will be at the forefront of the betting.
Regular racing fans and his legion of supporters will be including all of his rides in every exotic bet that’s available in Hong Kong and there will be plenty of celebrating if the ‘Zac-Man’ gets at least a handful of winners.
Of course, we all know gambling on horses isn’t as easy as it sometimes looks, and with his horses likely to start at odds on the skinny side, it could prove wise to find a couple of runners that have plenty to offer as well as some value for money.
Purton replaces Moreira on Exceptional Desire (2.15pm) following his win when making all over six furlongs three weeks ago.
But MANFUL STAR produced a quicker winning time when repelling the late challenge of subsequent winner Love Chunghwa over the same distance on the same card.
The Ricky Yiu gelding was confirming earlier promise, after an eye-catching third over the straight five-furlong track at Sha Tin.
With an inside draw a major plus, he will be stalking the early pace along the rail, and is he is going to be hard to beat, once jockey Umberto Rispoli unleashes him down the home stretch.
In the finale (3.50pm) Starlight and Purton will prove a hugely popular combination following the pairs easy victory over track and trip last month.
This hat-trick seeking gelding has already spiralled up 16lbs in the ratings this season, and will start at short odds to continue his rich winning vein of form.
The lightly-raced HAPPY HAPPY STAR, down near the bottom of the handicap, is an interesting contender, though.
The four-year-old needed the run when unplaced in a competitive handicap at Sha Tin last month and has since trialled impressively over six furlongs at Happy Valley.
He will be partnered by up-and-coming jockey Vincent Ho, and with blinkers equipped for the first time, could be better than his handicap mark.
I remember interviewing Ho, who is riding better than ever this season, a couple of years back in front of a large audience, when he said it was hard for local Chinese jockeys to make a living in HK.
Later that evening when I was making my way home, he pulled up beside me and offered me a lift in his bright yellow Ferrari!
Manful Star e/w 2.15pm Happy Valley
Happy Happy Star e/w 3.50pm Happy Valley