The Hong Kong jockeys’ championship hangs in the balance after Zac Purton drew within one win of Joao Moreira with seven meetings left in the season as Derek Leung took riding honours with a double at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Zac Purton and Run The Table, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
On an eventful night, Moreira was stood down from riding after the first race because of health issues and will also be sidelined for the Sha Tin meeting on Saturday (25 June), potentially opening the door for Purton to steal a late-season march in the race for title honours.
The contrasting fortunes of the two four-time Hong Kong champion jockeys was captured in the opening event of the card when Purton ignited his championship charge with victory on Francis Lui’s Run The Table in the Class 5 Cochrane Handicap (1650m) while Moreira finished seventh on Oh Bravo before being stood down.
While Run The Table was Purton’s sole winner for the evening as the Australian subsequently filed four minor placings, Moreira missed the chance to mitigate his arch-rival’s gain when one of his original rides – Winning Icey – won the second section of the Class 4 Gage Handicap (1200m) under substitute rider Luke Ferraris for Caspar Fownes.
Moreira clings to a slender 127-126 margin over Purton as Leung continues to emerge as a threat to Matthew Chadwick (46) and Vincent Ho (44) in the battle for the Tony Cruz Award for the leading home-grown jockey.
Leung’s brace took his tally to 42 for the season, initially coaxing the best out of Sergeant Pepper to win the Class 4 Hong Kong Young Industrialists Council 30th Anniversary Cup Handicap (1000m) for Me Tsui, piloting the I Am Invincible gelding to his first victory at his 12th start.
“It was a good win for me, he’s been working well in the morning but he’s so nervous and struggles to relax,” Leung said. “He was more relaxed tonight and I was able to warm him up behind the gates and he was able to save more energy.
“In the race, he did everything perfectly – we had a good start and we had no troubles.”
Leung then sealed his double with Bulletproof’s swooping victory in the Class 4 Graham Handicap (1650m) for Ricky Yiu. Posting his third win over the 1650m trip at Happy Valley, Bulletproof benefited from a patient Leung ride.
“I was put off by the barrier (12), but it was a perfect ride by the jockey,” Yiu said. “He rode him exactly the way he needs to be ridden.”
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Saturday.
Derek Leung and Sergeant Pepper marched out the win, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club