ALL GOOD things must come to an end and that’s the case for Happy Valley today as it hosts its final meeting of the 2018/19 season.
It’s safe to say the spotlight will remain firmly on champion jockey Zac Purton as he bids to emulate Joao Moreira’s record-breaking 170-winner haul back in 2016/17.
The record appeared to be a bridge to far until the ‘Zac-Man’ delivered another six-timer at Sha Tin last Sunday, putting himself within striking distance again, with just two meetings left of the season.
The reigning champ needs another six winners to equal Moreira’s record, with just 20 races remaining.
On paper, that looks a pretty tall ask for any jockey, especially in the highly charged and competitive environment of racing in Hong Kong, but Purton is riding like a man possessed.
Having ridden 30 winners in the last 10 race meetings, including 10 winners from his last 17 rides, the Australian pilot, as the local race-caller commented recently, could “win on a broomstick”.
Purton has a full book of rides on the nine-race card, but the gods of fortune have decreed they are not going to make it easy for him.
Where the draw is a hugely important factor around the tight-turning bends at the inner-city track, Purton finds himself partnering half-a-dozen contenders who have been saddled with horror draw numbers.
Take the opening race at 11.45am for example. Purton partners the highly talented and improving speedster Aquila, who would be a short-priced favourite following two encouraging efforts.
The trouble is, trainer Jimmy Ting’s youngster is berthed in the outside stall in the five-furlong contest and past records show no horse has won from that draw in the last three seasons!
Maybe Purton’s best chance of closing the gap on Moreira’s record this afternoon is when he climbs aboard two for trainer John Moore, Touch Of Luck in the 1.15pm and TASHIDELEK in the 3.15pm.
Moore and Purton have had a staggering 40 per cent strike-rate this season, combining on 83 occasions with 33 winners.
Moore is tied up in his own personal battle with trainer John Size as he seeks to win his eighth trainers’ championship.
Trailing the current champion by one, Moore will be hoping he can at least get on level terms with Size this afternoon before he brings out his heavy artillery for the final meeting of the season at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Touch Of Luck has proved costly to supporters in his last couple of runs and is going to need some luck, but Tashidelek looks to have everything in his favour to score his first success of the season.
Purton will look back on Tashidelek as a winner who got away last start, dashing too late and finding the winning post stride too soon over 1m3f at the Valley.
Having subsequently ridden the four-year-old in a recent impressive trial, you can guarantee the jockey will ride him more prominently this time and kick for glory before the home stretch.
Adding spice to the contest will be the presence of True Grit, seeking a five-timer and representing Size and Moreira.
This progressive son of Wanted has spiralled up the ratings by 27lbs since his winning spree began back in April.
Maybe the step up in distance will bring more improvement, but surely the handicapper has caught up with him by now.
Tashidelek 3.15pm Happy Valley