Punters looking for a lead at Sha Tin on Sunday won’t know where they are, with no Joao Moeira, no Zac Purton and no Poon Train and the benefits of those absences have been nicely spread around the jockeys’ room.
With Moreira and Purton in Tokyo for the Yasuda Kinen meeting, and Matthew Poon Ming-fai and Kei Chiong Ka-kei missing courtesy of their one-day prohibited substances bans, some of the popular lightning rods are missing and the Jockey Club has called on Craig Williams to help out.
Of the fly in, fly out riders, only Hugh Bowman – with seven wins from 43 rides and a number of majors amongst them – has performed better than Williams’ six wins from 42 rides this season, but the club no doubt also sees Williams’ popularity and ability to ride light as important options for owners.
Williams has flown in for seven meetings this term, winning at least a race at five of them, and he will pick up some key mounts, including Sam’s Love and Ensuring.
The Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained three-year-old Sam’s Love looked good winning his first start over handy Fantastic Eight at 1,200m when he got a brilliant steer from Moreira from barrier 13, going back, weaving through the field and finishing off strongly.
He does look better suited as he moves up quickly from 1,200m to 1,400m, and in what looks a very winnable race, but Williams has been set the task of replicating Moreira’s effort by being dealt gate 13 again in the event.
Still, Italian rider Umberto Risoli can probably count himself one of the main beneficiaries of the roster changes on Sunday as he seeks to firm up a relationship with the John Size yard.
Rispoli had previously done little riding for Size but has won two of seven recent mounts for the premier trainer. He has retained the ride on impressive debut winner Ivictory for Size, which might have been the case anyway, but the absence of Moreira sees him also pick up another Size runner who will be at the top of the betting in race four, Jolly Bountiful.
Ivictory is another stepping up in trip from his debut but it would be difficult to imagine the extra 200m and the switch to a turn being against him, and he looks the clear favourite for the second race.
Jolly Bountiful was well fancied at his debut but found the Happy Valley 1,000m too sharp at his first appearance when third to Grace Heart and he looks better suited moving to the bigger track and over 1,200m.
The three-year-old had impressed at the trials before his first run and only has to live up to those and his debut run to be the horse to beat on Sunday on what could be a big day for the Size yard.
Callan Murray had his first ride for Tony Cruz on Wednesday night, finishing unplaced Time Warp, but he looks to have emerged with a couple of nice rides in the two main events on Sunday for the leading yard.
The young South African takes Moreira’s place on General Sherman in the fifth event, coming off a Class Three win and dropping sharply in the weights, while he takes over from Zac Purton on Macau Hong Kong Trophy winner Romantic Touch in the Lion Rock Trophy.
Still, the weights might tell the tale in the Group Three, as they often do, with the in-form Sam Clipperton on Booming Delight for John Moore after he finished second to Keen Venture last start and Douglas Whyte getting down to his minimum weight to ride Doyeni for Tony Cruz after that gelding looked unlucky in the same Keen Venture race.