REIGNING champion jockey Zac Purton is the name that will be on everyone’s lips when Happy Valley hosts its regular Wednesday meeting in Hong Kong.
It wasn’t long ago that Joao Moreira was the darling of the fanatical racing fans in the territory. The Magic Man could do no wrong and was likened to a cash-point machine, but that has all changed.
Purton has recently put together a staggering 11-day blitz which has seen the Australian ride 14 winners and 11 places from just 31 rides.
His successful six-timer at Sha Tin on Sunday set a new benchmark for him and put him alongside the likes of Douglas Whyte and Brett Prebble in the record books. Only Moreira has their measure with his staggering eight-winner haul at Sha Tin.
The race for the jockeys’ title already looks done and dusted, as with just over four months of the season remaining he leads his nearest pursuer Karis Teetan by 26 winners. And the Purton juggernaut shows no signs of stopping.
He rides in seven of the eight races at the inner-city track this afternoon, all of which will be near the forefront of the betting.
Racing takes place on the notorious C+3 course which is only 19.5 metres in width.
The draw is sure to play a big part in determining the results, with a low draw normally paramount, especially in six-furlong contests where there is only a short run to the first bend.
Purton’s most likely chances of success, at least based on the formbook, appear to be when he teams up with local trainer Dennis Yip.
The former champion trainer and Purton have already proved the go-to combination in recent weeks.
Indeed, their statistics this season make impressive reading with the partnership combining for seven wins and six places from just 23 races.
Gentry in the opener at 11.45am over the extended mile looks sure to be favourite, having dropped down into the bottom grade.
The seven-year-old won his only previous race when encountering similar opposition back in 2017 and won from a 7lb higher mark in better company last season.
They also team up with the progressive PLAY WISE who lines up in a competitive extended mile handicap at 1.15pm
This five-year-old gelding suffered a tough journey when producing an encouraging effort and finishing third behind Charity Wings over course and distance at the end of last month
An outside draw is a worry. However, with Purton riding at the peak of his powers, he could still have too much class for his rivals
Purton’s most interesting ride is when he climbs aboard trainer Paul O’Sullivan’s newcomer BAND OF BROTHERS in the 12.45pm over six furlongs
This New Zealand-bred four-year-old is a son of Group One-winning sprinter Sakhee’s Secret and has been an eye-catcher ever since he landed in Hong Kong last September, both in his track-work and trials.
Although he has an awkward draw to overcome, he has been very quick out of the stalls in his four trials to date, and is mapped to be near the front from the off.
In an average-looking contest, given luck in running, he will be hard to beat.
Band Of Brothers 12.45pm Happy Valley
Play Wise 1.15pm Happy Valley