Zac Purton and João Moreira are engaged in a nip-and-tuck tussle for the jockeys’ title in the current Hong Kong season but the Brazilian opened up a three-win lead with a treble at Sha Tin on Sunday and Australia’s Purton will be eager to take advantage of his great rival’s absence due to suspension when the action shifts to Happy Valley on Wednesday.
Purton has a ride in eight of the nine races on the card, which – unlike Sha Tin three days ago – will be staged in the evening local time and thus gets under way at 11.45 BST, a much better time of day from a European punter’s point of view.
Seven of Purton’s mounts, meanwhile, look likely to set off as either the first or second favourite, though several have been drawn a little wider than ideal on a track where a low number is generally a big help.
According to the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s website, 69 horses have been drawn in stall 10 over six furlongs at Happy Valley since the start of the 2017-18 season and another 21 have been in the same stall over five furlongs. Not one of those 90 horses has come home in front. The draw has slightly less impact at longer trips, but stalls one and two still account for 17 of 57 winners in the same period over the eight-and-a-half furlongs, the trip for the races at 1.15 and 2.15.
11.45 Stall eight for Purton and possible favourite Kwai Chung Elite, which is not ideal over six furlongs here as stall one has produced twice as many winners – 18, in fact – over the last two-and-a-half seasons as any other (and stall two is next, with nine). Around 6-1 looks fair for Aurora Steed, who should be well positioned from three by Chad Schofield.
12.15 Six furlongs again and Blade Racer, a 16-1 shot in early betting, could make the most of stall one. This will be his first race over this trip at Happy Valley after four attempts over five, but he sprang a surprise over six at Sha Tin in September last year and his draw gives him every chance.
12.45 London Hall and Above were both winners last time out and attempt to defy hikes in the weights. London Hall is up 7lb for a three-quarter length win and though Above is up 12lb, he was a very smooth six-length winner at Sha Tin and has could be good enough to take this step up in class.
1.15 Invaluable is one of the most lightly-raced runners in the field and showed his best form to date when fourth over course and distance last time out. A price of around 5-1 look reasonable.
1.45 Winning Ways will be a popular choice from stall four with Purton holding the reins. He was a CD winner three outings ago and competitive off today’s mark next time up, while he got in all sorts of bother when only seventh last time.
2.15 Another big chance for Purton on last-time winner Tangmere, but Blooming Spirit has an equally good chance on paper and looks likely to be a bigger price.
2.45 Purton on a possible favourite once again with Lucky Quality drawn in stall one, but he does not have as much early pace as several of his opponents and Happy Good Guys, drawn just outside in two, could be better placed to strike.
3.15 Dancing Fighter was coming back from a 112-day break when only eighth – and a beaten favourite – over CD last time, but he missed the kick badly from stall nine and has a much better pitch in two this time and Purton can make the most of it.
3.50 The second of two Class Three races, worth £80,000 to the winner apiece, at the end of the card. Larson was a ready winner last time out but it up 6lb and could be vulnerable from stall 10. Classic Unicorn has the rail pitch and should make it count.