With no Whyte, it's all about Purton
With championship leader Douglas Whyte withdrawing through injury for the second straight week, the Jockey Challenge has been thrown wide open and the added incentive of finishing second in the standings can propel Zac Purton to a big day at Sha Tin.
Whyte will miss the season finale with a shoulder injury, leaving Purton and fellow Aussie Brett Prebble to fight it out for the runner-up position.
Second place doesn't carry a prize, only bragging rights, but Prebble has held the spot for the last six years and he won't let go without a fight.
Purton heads into the final meeting with a one-win advantage (63-62) over his compatriot and has the better book of rides on paper, making him a $2.50 favourite last night to win the Jockey Challenge. He (11 rides) also has the numerical advantage over Prebble (nine), who was a firming $6.50 third favourite last night.
Tim Clark ($5.50) was second pick and has strong claims, with John Moore's Thanksgiving looking like a good banker for the rookie rider, with the three-year-old coming off back-to-back wins and again drawn well.
Purton starts the day on M's Magic, who should give a good site after running three consecutive fourths and is drawn perfectly in three.
Later in the day Purton continues with a strong book. He rides Africa Light (race four), Lucky Chevalier (race five), Global Fame (race six), Victor Delight (race seven), Finn Maccool (race eight), Jung Gong (race nine) and Strathtay (race 10) - all of them single-figure odds in early markets.
Prebble's competitive spirit will have him desperate to ride winners and he has some winning hopes, the best of them in the highest-rated races of the day on Silver Grecian and Smart Giant.