Bold, front-running three-year-old chestnuts Handsome Bo Bo and Ugly Warrior could be the key for Zac Purton as he tries to upset Joao Moreira in a Jockey Challenge that looks like a race in two on Saturday at Sha Tin.
The top two riders in Hong Kong are the only ones in single figures for the Jockey Challenge but perhaps Purton’s two bankers can give him the edge over his arch rival.
Handsome Bo Bo has been a dominant wire-to-wire winner over 1,200m at his last two starts and steps into Class Three for the Beyond Arts Appreciation Handicap over the same course and distance.
Drawn barrier eight on the C + 3 course, Handsome Bo Bo will need to show he can do more than just dominate as a sole leader in the race but if Purton can get his horse to settle outside the speed he should get every chance.
Purton’s Ugly Warrior versus Moreira on Elite Boy in the Class Three Age-Friendly City Handicap (1,200m), the ninth event of the day, could be the deciding race in the Jockey Challenge.
Ugly Warrior hasn’t raced for more than seven weeks, trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak sending the son of Swiss Ace to the trials on April 10, and his form got a timely boost last week.
Pick Number One was an impressive Class Two winner at Sha Tin and carried two more pounds than Ugly Warrior when he was a length-and-a-quarter winner.
That form looks strong and the freshen-up could prove the difference against Elite Boy, who needs to contend with a massive jump in the ratings.
The Michael Freedman-trained sprinter was hit with 11 points by the handicapper for a six-length Class Four victory – the horse’s first – against average-looking opposition.
Moreira’s banker comes in the form of John Size-trained three-year-old Aerohappiness as the potential top-liner backs up in the Class Four Nurturing Talent Handicap (1,200m) three weeks after an impressive debut victory.
Outside Aerohappiness, Moreira lacks a true banker, and if Purton can score points on each-way chances like Golden Sleep, Royal Performer, Yee Cheong Pegasus and Midnight Rattler it will put him in a great position heading into the late races.
Providing extra motivation for Purton is a chance to eat into Moreira’s Jockeys’ Championship lead, with the Australian’s midweek treble closing the gap to 12.
Early money indicates that punters believe Moreira has the edge, with the Brazilian opening the $1.85 favourite but a wave of money bringing his price into $1.75, with Purton drifting to $2.10.