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Saturday’s season finale to decide jockeys’ championship

July 14, 2022 at 2:39:05 AM

The battle for the Hong Kong jockeys’ championship is set for a dramatic conclusion at the season finale at Sha Tin on Saturday (16 July) with the smallest possible margin separating arch-rivals and four-time champions Zac Purton and Joao Moreira.

The battle for the Hong Kong jockeys’ championship is set for a dramatic conclusion at the season finale at Sha Tin on Saturday (16 July) with the smallest possible margin separating arch-rivals and four-time champions Zac Purton and Joao Moreira.

After 87 meetings and 825 races, Purton and Moreira have both ridden 132 winners but Moreira’s tally contains two dead-heats to Purton’s one dead-heat, leaving the Australian with the narrowest buffer ahead of Saturday’s 11-race card.

Purton, champion in 2013/14, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20, and Moreira, titlist in 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2020/21, have traded the championship lead six times already this season and, after Moreira’s double at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (13 July), the Brazilian will attempt to take the upper hand – and a fifth title – on Saturday.

The defending champion made crucial inroads at Happy Valley with two wins, two seconds and a pair of thirds, while Purton endured a frustrating evening with three seconds and a third from nine mounts.

“It’s been a good night, good results, nice wins and getting all of us excited for Saturday,” Moreira beamed post-meeting.

The Brazilian fired the opening salvo when his rails-hugging ride on Amazing Boy from barrier one delivered victory in the Class 5 Ventris Handicap (2200m) for Michael Chang, while Purton was second aboard Victorious Seeker.

The ‘Magic Man’ upped the ante when Caspar Fownes-trained Sugar Sugar swept clear to land the second section of the Class 4 Sung Tak Handicap (1200m) as Purton battled for clear running atop fourth-placed Triple Triple.

With the trainers’ championship still heavily tilted 90-84 in Frankie Lor’s favour over 11-time champion John Size, Lor is poised to lift the title for the first time in only his fifth season, while Matthew Chadwick is favoured to land the Tony Cruz Award for the most successful home-grown jockey.

Chadwick (55 wins) cemented his lead over Vincent Ho (50) with a winner for Cruz himself, the four-time champion jockey and dual champion trainer after whom the award is named.

“Matthew Chadwick was my apprentice and I believe he will win this award,” Cruz said after Super Oasis scrambled to victory in the Class 3 Oi Kwan Handicap (1800m). “It would be great to see Matthew win the award. He, along with Vincent Ho and Derek Leung, are doing a great job.”

Ho retains a mathematical chance of retaining the title after bring up his half-century of winners for the season when Ricky Yiu-trained Fabulous Eight denied Purton’s Vamos in the Class 4 Broadwood Handicap (1000m).

Reflecting on his chances of claiming the Tony Cruz Award for a fourth consecutive season, Ho said: “It will be very difficult, but let’s see.”

Peter Ho took training honours at the final Happy Valley meeting of the season and, with 14 wins for the campaign, is upbeat over Packing Award’s future after the Shamus Award gelding secured a High Achievement Bonus of HK$1 million by winning the Class 2 Wong Nai Chung Handicap (1650m) under Matthew Poon, who also celebrated a brace.

With five wins from 13 starts, Packing Award is Ho’s flagbearer.

“The horse should have a good holiday now because he’s a fighter,” Ho said. “He loves racing, he’s got a big engine and every trainer would love to train him. If I could have two more of this kind of horse, I think I would get a good end result. It’s not easy to get a winner, but you still have to try.”

Keith Yeung exalted in United Endeavors’ unexpected success in the Class 4 Hau Tak Handicap (1650m) after Peter Ho’s charge prevailed at 34/1, while also denying Moreira a treble.

Yeung, 34, suffered multiple fractures in his right foot when riding Jumbo Goal at Happy Valley on 27 April and feared he might be sidelined for the rest of the season.

“It was unexpected,” Yeung said of his first win since Reve Parisien’s success at Sha Tin on 24 April. “This win means a lot. To be honest, I was struggling a bit because a few weeks back I was choosing between coming back and riding again before the end of the season or taking a break.

“I decided to come out and participate for the last few meetings and I’m grateful for all the help I had from the Club with physiotherapy and nutrition advice. It was a big help.

“The foot is fully recovered now and it happened a lot quicker than I expected. I had a three-point fracture and one of fracture point was where I step on the irons, so I was expecting to be off for longer than three months.”

Lyle Hewitson extended a remarkable Happy Valley streak with success atop Douglas Whyte-trained Our Lucky Glory in the Class 3 Sports Road Handicap. Hewitson, who has 26 wins this term, has produced at least one winner at each of the past nine Happy Valley meetings.

Manfred Man registered his 33rd win of the campaign when Hero Star triumphed under Matthew Poon in the first section of the Class 4 Sung Tak Handicap (1200m), while Luke Ferraris continued a strong finish to the season with a fourth win from the past seven meetings with victory aboard Richard Gibson-trained Carry The Diamond in the Class 5 Link Handicap (1000m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Saturday (16 July) with the season finale.

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