Hugh Bowman’s return to the saddle in Hong Kong is on hold, with the jockey forced to join Zac Purton on the sidelines for Wednesday night’s meeting at Happy Valley because he is a Covid-19 close contact.

Bowman, the 104-time Group One-winning rider whom the Jockey Club has licensed for the next three months, was set to be the primary beneficiary of Covid-positive Purton’s midweek unavailability.

Of the seven Wednesday rides Purton gave up after his positive test on Sunday, Bowman picked up four of them – Comet Splendido, Savaquin, H Z Tourbillon and Universal Crown – and filled what was then his full Happy Valley book with Namjong Sings, Gold Marquis, Darci Joy, Leslie and Carry The Diamond.

But fewer than 24 hours after landing in Hong Kong ahead of his first rides in the city since the Classic Cup meeting at Sha Tin in February 2020, Bowman had to not only relinquish his Happy Valley engagements but also begin his period of isolation.

Jye McNeil, another Australian jockey who arrived in Hong Kong this month, inherited what was probably the pick of Bowman’s – and Purton’s – rides, last-start winner Comet Splendido for Danny Shum Chap-shing in the Class Three Hanshin Handicap (1,650m).

Another Australian rider, Luke Currie, will partner Savaquin, from whom 11-time champion trainer John Size has removed the pacifiers he applied last time out, in the Class Two Tokyo Handicap (1,650m).

Vincent Ho Chak-yiu has regained the ride aboard Shum-prepared course-and-distance winner Namjong Sings in the Class Three Kyoto Handicap (1,200m) after the seven-year-old’s connections had, initially, decided to dump him for Bowman.

Matthew Chadwick, whom trainers’ championship leader Tony Cruz has placed on standby to steer California Spangle and Beauty Joy if Purton does not get the green light to ride in Sunday’s main international day lead-up meeting, collected a couple of Bowman’s lost bookings – H Z Tourbillon and Gold Marquis.

Luke Ferraris (Universal Crown), Silvestre de Sousa (Darci Joy), Derek Leung Ka-chun (Leslie) and Ruan Maia (Carry The Diamond) have replaced Bowman on other horses declared for Wednesday’s night card.

The Covid-related absences of Purton and Bowman, along with the physical ailments that have forced Joao Moreira and Karis Teetan out of action, have put a big hole in Hong Kong’s riding ranks.

Australian jockeys Zac Purton and Hugh Bowman at Sha Tin trackwork in April 2014.

The Jockey Club hopes both Purton and Bowman will be able to ride at Sha Tin on Sunday, with officials saying the superstar Australians will be given until the morning of this weekend’s major meeting to prove their eligibility to compete in the afternoon.

Three-time Group One winner Wellington headlines what is likely to be a full field for the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m) after connections entered 15 speedsters and David Hayes-trained galloper Lucky With You was listed as the dash’s first reserve.

Huge get for Jockey Club as Bowman joins HK’s riding ranks for next three months

Golden Sixty and California Spangle are among the seven Group Two Jockey Club Mile (1,600m) entries, with Francis Lui Kin-wai’s champion tasked with carrying five pounds more than Cruz’s challenger.

The Group Two Jockey Club Cup (2,000m) has attracted nine entries, including Shum’s Romantic Warrior, Douglas Whyte’s Russian Emperor and Cruz’s Beauty Joy.