Zac Purton and Joao Moreira have shared the past eight jockeys’ premierships, winning four each, but not since the 2017-18 season has the title fight been alive heading into the final meeting.
Even that year it was all but decided heading into the finale, with Purton holding a four-win lead before prevailing 136-134.
It was close again in 2019-20 but the sting went out of the tussle in the final meetings, with suspensions hampering Moreira as Purton went onto win 147-138.
It was the Brazilian doing it easy last season, saluting 157-125, but by landing his first four-timer since early March at Sha Tin on Sunday, Purton has given racing fans hope they’ll get the grandstand finish they so crave.
Purton’s weekend haul means he has already matched last year’s win tally and he has drawn within two victories of Moreira with eight meetings remaining.
No doubt a lot can happen in that time but, with Hong Kong racing offering very little else across the final month of the campaign, a vintage renewal of the Zac vs Joao show would be welcomed by all to break up the monotony.
Both have full books at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and Purton will be looking to maintain his momentum as his body gradually improves after a long recovery from injuries suffered in a fall in December’s Hong Kong Sprint.
It was at this meeting two years ago that Purton combined with Francis Lui Kin-wai for a four-timer to all but put the 2019-20 title race to bed and they team up with Keep You Warm and Run The Table.
Brilliant ride, @zpurton! The champ's on the board as Exuberant scores with plenty in hand. 👏 #HKracing pic.twitter.com/YNVaXN60yn— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) May 5, 2021
Purton has a host of chances across the card, with Jimmy Ting Koon-ho’s Blissful Star, Ares for the trainers’ title leader Frankie Lor Fu-chuen and World Famous for the in-form Ricky Yiu Poon-fai all looking capable of big runs.
But it might be Exuberant for his regular partner in crime Danny Shum Chap-shing that is Purton’s best chance, with the four-year-old chasing a second career win in the Class Four Gage Handicap (1,200m).
A close second on his last start behind Excellent Peers, who has since won again, Exuberant looks more than capable of going one better in an even contest.
Moreira’s book includes last-start placegetters Yellowfin, Amazing News and Like That.
Keep You Warm the headline act for Francis Lui at Happy Valley
He also reunites with Eason in the Class Two Staunton Handicap (1,200m) and the pair will look to build on a near-flawless record.
Moreira has piloted Eason to three wins and a second from four attempts, while the galloper’s other three runs have returned a pair of seconds under Matthew Poon Ming-fai and a last-start sixth with Vincent Ho Chak-yiu in the saddle.
With barrier one at his disposal aboard the three-year-old, who has rocketed to a rating of 83 in his debut season, Moreira should be able to assume a prime position and give his charge every chance.