Racing is a numbers game and there have been some impressive ones this season – largely due to the indomitable Zac Purton and the superstar Beauty Generation – but if you dig a little deeper 2018-19’s figures are the gift that just keeps on giving.
Records have tumbled at the hands of the above parties, with Beauty Generation becoming the first horse to win eight races in a season and Purton breaking the record for prize money, with his mounts earning a cool HK$234,989,515, but there is also much, much more to digest.
All-weather winners and the punters’ pal
With 168 winners at a far superior strike rate of 24.7 per cent – Joao Moreira was next best at 18.2 per cent – seven Group Ones and the jockeys’ premiership to his name, Purton dominates just about every stat there is for jockeys, but he didn’t quite sweep the board.
His 98 wins on the Sha Tin turf and 55 at Happy Valley stood above all others, however his dominance was tempered on the all-weather track, with Karis Teetan matching the Australian as the leading dirt performer with 15 victories.
And while Purton was riding winners for fun, it was Grant van Niekerk who gave the punters the greatest joy, delivering an incredible 50.2 per cent return on investment for win bets to comfortably be the most profitable jockey.
Any old odds
While Hong Kong, and Sha Tin in particular, is the home of the long odds-on favourite, there were still plenty of roughies and a handful that left their supporters beaming.
Magnificent was the first horse sent out at over $100 to salute this term, but his dead-heat at the Valley in February saw his $189 starting quote sliced in half, although the $94.95 return was certainly not to be sneezed at.
Not to be outdone, The Full Bloom – with that man Van Niekerk again – got the job done at the ludicrous price of $167.70 to walk away as the highest-priced winner of the season, even if Travel First did his best when saluting at $115.60 a week later.
Better than bank interest?
In comparison to The Full Bloom’s majestic return, an all-up incorporating all eight of Beauty Generation’s victories would have paid only $38.10.
After jumping what was in hindsight a ridiculously juicy $4.35 in his first start of the season, Beauty Generation was sent out at the skinny quotes of 2.15, 1.50, 1.50, 1.15, 1.25, 1.20 and 1.05 as the punters came to grips with just how good John Moore’s miler is.
And that ghastly $1.05 in Beauty Generation’s Champions Mile win was sadly not a one-off, with young speed stars Aethero and Winning Method also saluting at the very bare minimum.
Rocket to the floor
But the season wasn’t all about superstars and while Beauty Generation surged to a rating of 137, at the other end of the scale we have Rocket Go.
So bad was the five-year-old, he dropped down to a rating of zero after starting the season on 28, spiralling downward on the back of seven ordinary performances.
After five runs last season under the tutelage of Michael Chang Chun-wai with a best finish of 12th, Rocket Go was switched to the care of Manfred Man Ka-leung and things got marginally better, with the horse producing one eighth-placed finish, the only top 10 effort of his career.
After being bought as an International Sales Griffin for HK$5.2 million, the owners have seen a return of exactly zero. Happy retirement Rocket Go.
Shut the front gate
Punters love inside barriers and this season’s stats largely backed up their faith, with the inside alley the most prolific in Sha Tin turf races, producing 54 winners at 13 per cent.
Barriers three and five were not far behind and the only others in double figures, both striking at 11 per cent.
The barriers become even more fervent a conversation at the tight-turning Happy Valley track and the numbers backed up the notion that the inside runners have a significant advantage.
The first three gates delivered the most winners – gate one 41 at 14 per cent, gate two 45 at 15 per cent and gate three 33 at 11 per cent. Barrier five was the only other in double figures, with a strike rate of 10 per cent.
It’s on the all-weather track where things become a touch more unpredictable, with barriers four and nine sharing the honours for most productive, both with 11 winners at 11 per cent. And next in line was the rarely used barrier 13, tossing up two winners at 10 per cent.
Training the house down
While the jockeys’ title was a foregone conclusion early in the piece, John Moore and John Size treated fans to a ding-dong spectacle as they fought tooth and nail to be crowned champion trainer.
Size prevailed 78-75 in the end, winning his 11th title despite Moore’s frenzied late-season charge that ensured the battle lived on until the very last day of the season.