IT WASN’T that long ago that talk about reigning champion jockey Zac Purton retaining his title was out of the question, with Joao Moreira ‘over the hill and faraway’.
In the early weeks of February, Moreira had a decisive lead of 30 and was riding winners for fun, making the most of his partnerships with leading trainers Caspar Fownes and John Size.
In the last month, however, the pendulum has slowly but surely swung in Purton’s favour. Since the beginning of March, the Zac-Man has booted home 25 winners, while his arch-rival including a suspension has had only 12.
Moreira still holds a healthy advantage of 17, but the news that Purton is going to renew his successful partnership with Fownes this month is an added bonus for the Australian, and with 27 meetings remaining in the season, the title race could become exciting.
Both pilots are booked for eight rides on the nine-race programme at Happy Valley, and while it should be inconceivable that the ‘deadly duo’ will leave the city-track empty-handed, neither look to have proverbial ‘penalty-kicks’ during the action.
They lock horns in the Moorsom Handicap (2:15pm) over six furlongs, when Moreira stays loyal to Peak To Peak who was just headed in the closing stages over the course and distance recently, against Purton’s mount STAR OF WUYI who needed another stride when runner-up over this distance last month.
Preference is for the Francis Lui-trained Star of Wuyi, who looks highly progressive, and is improving with experience.
Star Of Wuyi 2.15pm Happy Valley