RIVALS Joao Moreira and Zac Purton are set to take centre stage again when the duelling duo go head-to-head in eight of the nine races at Happy Valley today.
Former Champion Jockey Purton finally breathed some life back into the Championship race with a winning treble at Sha Tin on Sunday, cutting Moreira’s lead back to six, with 13 race-meetings of the season remaining.
The 39-year-old had found it tough going for most of last month, riding four race meetings without a winner and, before Sunday, only visiting the winners’ circle three times from nearly 60 rides.
Winners breed confidence, however, and you can guarantee the Zac-Man will arrive at the city track with a spring back in his step and raring to go again.
The likes of recent runaway winner Gorgeous Vitality in the Kennedy Handicap (2.45pm) over five furlongs and classy three-time winner En Pointe in the Caine Handicap (3.50pm) have ‘winner’ written all over them, while improving FIGHTING STAR could be a bonus for the Australian in division two of the Magazine Gap Handicap (1.45pm) over six furlongs.
Once upon a time the combination of trainer Dennis Yip and Purton was a recipe for success for punters, but Yip’s stable has been out of sorts this season meaning the partnership haven’t really fired and has only yielded a handful of victories.
One of those wins came on Sunday, when a power-packed Purton finish delivered Phoenix Light to lead on the line, and they may have a swift follow-up with Fighting Star, who looks capable of making the most of an attractive mark in the handicap.
This son of Not A Single Doubt can be rated much better than his sixth to Ace One on a rain-sodden track at Sha Tin recently.
Having tracked the leaders into the home straight on that occasion, his jockey navigated a passage down the centre of the course, while all the previous winners on the day had raced close to the stand’s rails.
There is no doubt he should have finished much closer than his final position suggests, and he was also racing against much better company than he meets here.
Moreira, meanwhile, has his card marked in all nine races and will fancy his chances of hitting the bullseye once again having had 10 winners in recent times.
His best ride looks to be RISING FROM ASHES who takes his chance in the Bowen Handicap (3.15pm) over six furlongs.
This progressive Australian-bred four-year-old was denied a win over the course and distance in April, when becoming unbalanced turning into the home straight and then dashing too late to catch Namjong Sings.
Jockey Vincent Ho has been relegated to the side-lines and Moreira takes over on the gelding, who has drawn the favourable inside stall one and has cheek-pieces equipped for the first time in Hong Kong, having won with them on in Australia.
Fighting Star (e/w) 1.45pm Happy Valley
Rising From Ashes 3.15pm Happy Valley