Zac Purton took advantage of Joao Moreira’s enforced absence by assuming the lead in the jockeys’ championship with a treble at Sha Tin on Saturday.
The Australian rider was just one behind his rival going into the meeting but took the chance to make hay after Moreira was stood down from the fixture after experiencing chest pains at Happy Valley on Wednesday.
“It’s been a good day,” Purton said. “Unfortunately for Joao he’s missed the meeting and most of Wednesday night. It’s hot at this time of the year and health is more important than riding winners and the championship.
“He needed to take that time off and if he feels like he needs to take more, he’s got to do what’s right for him. But it obviously gave me an opportunity and most of my horses turned up – not all of them – so it’s been all right.”
The Magic Man’s disappointment at missing the meeting would have been compounded by the fact Purton wiped out the lead on a horse that Moreira would have been guaranteed to ride.
Bundle Of Charm had contributed one of Moreira’s 127 wins this season when winning on debut and the pair again teamed up to finish fourth earlier this month, but it was Purton who reaped the rewards this time with victory the Class Four Ho Sheung Heung Road Handicap (1,200m) by an easy four and three-quarter lengths.
Wide-margin wins were the theme of Purton’s early success as he came home three and three-quarter lengths clear aboard Blotting Paper in the Class Four Tuen Mun Public Riding School Handicap (1,650m).
Purton went two clear of Moreira in the championship race when Superbella won the Class Three Lei Yue Mun Park Handicap (2,000m) and with just six meetings to go, a thrilling conclusion to the title race looks likely.
While those two experienced jockeys look set to fight things out in the closing stages of the season, one of Hong Kong’s youngest riders received high praise from the legendary Tony Cruz after guiding The Golden Scenery to success in the Class Two Pok Fu Lam Country Park Handicap (1,400m).
Luke Ferraris was the man on the receiving end of the plaudits and Cruz was delighted with the way the jockey scythed through the field.
“Luke rode a perfect race on him,” Cruz said. “He’s very calm and I like this jockey. In future, I will definitely put him on more horses.”
Trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai has had a disappointing time of it in 2021-22 but he is reserving his best form for the final stages of the season.
Wins for Golden Mission in the Class Five Chai Wan Road Handicap (1,200m) and So We Joy in the Class Three Lung Mun Road Handicap (1,650m) means three of Chang’s last five runners have saluted and he is now up to 14 winners for the season.
“Honestly, I’m always happy with my stable performance,” Chang said. “I train a lot of slow horses and I’ve done the best I can. You can see I’ve had a lot of second and third placings [21 and 25, respectively],” he said. “It’s good to get a double.”