Already, we are one quarter of the way through the 2020-21 Hong Kong racing season and December’s Hong Kong International Races are just around the corner.
Caspar Fownes and Joao Moreira are tearaway leaders in the trainers’ and jockeys’ championships and will be hard to catch with both hungry for more success.
After selling all of his stock last month, Moreira’s compatriot Vagner Borges has us eating humble pie, reeling off seven winners since then. At least the likes of Matthew Chadwick and Karis Teetan have performed well.
The next three months will see eight of Hong Kong’s 12 Group One features run and won along with both the Classic Mile and Classic Cup for four-year-olds, so there will plenty of jostling for position. We assess who’s hot and who’s not.
Buy – Jerry Chau Chun-lok
The apprentice has clearly taken a step in the right direction this season.
Under the guidance of riding legends Douglas Whyte and Felix Coetzee, Chau has emerged from the pack as the stand-out apprentice in Hong Kong by a big margin, and the numbers back it up.
Chau has booted home 14 winners in just 94 rides along with 27 placings – an incredible 43 per cent of his rides finishing among the money.
His dominance of the apprentice ranks is highlighted when compared to his rivals Alfred Chan Ka-hei and Victor Wong Chun, who are yet to land a winner between them from a combined 118 rides.
Despite recently losing his 10-pound claim, buyers should not be scared off with the 20-year-old still enjoying strong support with his seven-pound advantage.
Chau’s main stumbling block this season could come at the hands of the stewards with the young gun finding himself on the wrong end of a couple of suspensions of late.
Buy – David Hayes
Things haven’t exactly gone to plan for the returning trainer this season, but there are signs he may be about to turn the corner.
Hayes has battled with an average batch of tried horses early in the season, managing just four winners in what was a much-hyped return to Hong Kong racing, meaning he has had a quieter than expected first two months.
The Australian has long maintained his best results would come as the cooler months rolled in and his new horses got their chance to shine. Now is his time to deliver.
With 27 unraced Private Purchase Griffins (PPGs) along with some highly touted Private Purchases (PPs) currently in his stable, Hayes has some serious fire power to come.
Some of those PPGs have already shown above-average ability at the trials and it is now on Hayes to get them to take that form to the races.
The 58-year-old will be looking to have a strong hand in the upcoming four-year-old series with the likes of Shadow Hero, Beauty Joy and The Summit all well-credentialed youngsters.
Sell – Zac Purton punters
It is an undeniable fact that most horses Purton rides start well under the odds, and favourite backers have done it tough lately as a result.
Purton is not enjoying his strongest run of form of late, with just three winners in his last five meetings, but that hasn’t stopped punters queuing up to back his horses.
In the past 10 meetings, Purton has ridden 34 favourites for just two victories – Kings Shield and Beauty Angel.
To cap it off, he will be spending two meetings on the sidelines shortly after copping a rare suspension from the stewards.
A $10 flat stake on all of Purton’s rides this season would have returned a loss of $629 – only Antoine Hamelin has a worse return on investment from jockeys with a win next to their name.
While he has secured the past three jockeys’ championships, the Australian has his work cut out if he wants four in a row with Moreira setting a blazing pace in front and currently enjoying the lion’s share of support from Fownes and John Size.
The 11-win gap is not insurmountable, however, and Purton loves a scrap.
Sell – Dennis Yip Chor-hong
Of all of the trainers who enjoy a second stable at Conghua in mainland China, Yip is the only one not to have a winner trained from there this season.
So far 50 horses have returned from Conghua and won their next start in Hong Kong this – a ringing endorsement for the processes in place, but it seems it hasn’t clicked for Yip.
Top trainers Fownes, Size, Frankie Lor Fu-chuen and Francis Lui Kin-wai have created a production line of Conghua winners with 25 between them and proven it is a worthwhile exercise.
While Yip is enjoying a strong start to the season, highlighted by Wishful Thinker’s victory in the Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m), we are prepared to cash out as heavyweight trainers begin to heat up.