Private Purchase horses have come roaring back into popularity in the past 12 months as the Hong Kong Jockey Club's encouragement schemes appear to have properly kicked in. After Private Purchase Griffins (PPGs) had dominated the import ranks for the past few years, the latest figures show that owners are turning in greater numbers to Private Purchases (PPs) this season. For the seasons ending in 2000, 2001 and 2002, PPGs were more than four in five of the new horses in Hong Kong, peaking at 84 per cent in 2001-02. But PPs moved back into favour last season, rising from 16 per cent to 27 per cent of the imports, and this year has seen that rise again, with PPs making up 34 per cent of the imports to mid-December. The replacement permits are also more popular after two full seasons of operation and fine-tuning, with 23 replacements this season so far - only one short of the figure for the entire season in 2002-03 - and another 51 replacement permits still unused. But the figures also suggest that the ultimate aim of the replacement policies is working, statistically at least, based on the types of replacements. In the first replacement permit season, when one of the replacement permits was for horses rated 105 internationally or higher, the average rating of the horse being replaced was 45 and the average initial rating of the new horse was 98. Following changes to the policy which dropped the required rating to 95, the numbers grew closer together - with the average rating of the replaced horse 54 and the replacement 95. This season, that gap has again grown narrower, with the ratings of the replaced horses averaging 68 and the new horses 87, although the figures have been distorted by some high profile cases. Handicapper Ciaran Kennelly pointed out that most replacements have been higher grade runners for lower grade ones, but when highly rated horses like Fairy King Prawn, King Of Danes and Housemaster have been replaced more recently, it has not been possible and they have lifted the average for the replaced horses. There are no right and wrong answers for Hong Kong racing - one can certainly argue that the PPGs offer a great chance for owners to recoup the cost of the horse early as they begin in moderate company in Class Four and are frequently able to win one or two races at least before Kennelly takes a grip on them. On the other hand, PPGs are unknown in the sense that they are unraced and PPs may already have established their ability as being in the upper bracket. But then, who really knows what they are getting? Both groups face equally the challenge to acclimatise and produce their ability be it from races or trials overseas. Both groups have their great successes and their inevitable disappointments in recent years. Fairy King Prawn, Electronic Unicorn, All Thrills Too, Precision and now Silent Witness and Lucky Owners have been phenomenal PPGs. The likes of Olympic Express, Indigenous, Industrial Pioneer and Oriental Express have starred for the PPs. Nevertheless, a better balance of the groups can assist in the always-contentious area of programming by breaking down the log-jam of Class Four horses.