There’s something happening in racing these days- a vibe- that’s hard to put one’s finger on.
Are, for example, we starting to tire of all the “Magic Man” talk? Perhaps even Joao Moreira wants a break from having to constantly live up to these great and unreal expectations?
In this day and age of apps and fads, has it run its course, whereas is seeing every single horse he rides like Winnam on Sunday starting way under the odds swaying many towards “magic” when, sometimes, the only thing there is Fool’s Gold?
Joao Moreira is an incredibly gifted horseman- a freakish talent never ever seen before, who has won over the global racing media and racing fans with his ability to win- and keep winning along with an effusive, affable personality, something lacking in most other jockeys. But he doesn’t walk on water, feed the forty thousand and win on every horse he rides.
Like Christophe Soumillion, Ryan Moore and Zac Purton, Moreira is one of the best jockeys in the world. Is he THE best? Or are there a handful of “the bests”? Three? Maybe four?
Soumillon might have been on the best horses, but the Belgian ace was superb on Dubai World Cup Day to win on the magnificent animals he rode, whereas, could another jockey other than Ryan Moore have ridden Hong Kong’s Super Jockey any better?
On the subject of Dubai World Cup Day, though some of the fields were on the weak side, and that last race was won by the eight-year-old Prince Bishop with an amateurish ride by the experienced Victor Espinoza on California Chrome raising eyebrows and shaking heads, many of us also saw for the first time the Freddy Head-trained and Maxine Guyon-ridden Solow and how, along with Dolniya, below, again underlined the quality of Europe’s best equine talent along with, yes, the enormous wealth, but also the power and passion for horses and horse racing by all those Sheikhs of Araby.
To the horse-loving sheikhs, it’s never ever about “the punt” as that’s just chump change, and what has never ever driven them. What drives them is a sense of history and a passion for the one-time Sport Of Kings with Meydan being Sheikh Mo’s very own private garden party where he has always played the gracious host that he is.
Away from Dubai World Cup Day, there was the brilliant five-timer on Saturday from James McDonald at Rosehill whereas the next day, in Japan, came the tenacious win for Hong Kong in the Group 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen by the Paul O’Sullivan-trained Aerovelocity and a difficult ride made to look easy from Zac Purton.
Personally, in one weekend, there was such a buffet of racing from all around the world with so many different riding styles that it brought to the fore the sport’s new heroes-equine and human- and where the real winners are us- the racing fans who get to watch and absorb all this.
Tonight, with the spectacular Cavalia extravaganza in Hong Kong as part of the HKJC’s 130th Anniversary Celebrations, we get to see the beauty of horses in a different light- and a show not to be missed.
Meanwhile, at Happy Valley, we have another Happy Wednesday meeting, and, as with all races on the city track, there will be the usual upsets along with the obligatory winners from the Joao Moreira and Zac Purton Show.
Though he might not be keeping score or trying to beat records and make new ones, the brilliant Moreira is rapidly closing in on the fastest one hundred winners ridden in Hong Kong by a jockey. It’s something even the most casual local racing fan will be cheering him on to reach- and to be there when he reaches this magical number.
There’s then Zac Purton who has ridden superbly all season and, with the win on Aerovelocity, no doubt riding with even more confidence, something he doesn’t lack. Just ask him. He’ll be happy to tell you.
The Magic Man versus The Zac Attack- two of the best jockeys in the world- riding against each other at almost every meeting with a supporting cast comprising Douglas Whyte, Neil Callan, the often underrated Nash Rawiller and Brett Prebble along with the ongoing trainers battle, it’s wonderful theatre that is a marketing dream for the HKJC.
The timing is perfect as the club seems to be entering a new era where the already incredibly successful organisation will be making giant new strides in the evolvement and paradigm shift of a sport that has been allowed to plod along for too long without an ongoing E Factor: E for Entertainment. And this Entertainment mixed with the traditional excitement of the sport,!and a greater respect for horses is what we have now.
It all helps to broaden the appeal of horse racing by re-positioning and improving the image of the sport.
Team Aerovelocity- trainer Paul ‘O Sullivan and Zac Purton- should go about their winning ways here with Amazing Gift.
For the legs, one must add Neil Callan’s mount Mister Marc as the percentage of Purton-Callan quinellas and quinella place results this season are extraordinarily high.
To add value to the Quartet, include those at big odds ridden by the local boys. There’s a buffet of them down in the weights.
This being a 1000m sprint and some of the main chances drawn out wide, follow the odds- not those very misleading overnight odds controlled by very little money- when the horses are behind the barriers. I can see one of the local boys taking this out and maybe even running the quinella and tierce.
Almond Lee needs one more winner to reach the number required to be re-licensed next season and Gold Talent ridden by Alex Lai, who got into an awful mess when he deputised for Keith Yeung on Packing Llaregyb on Sunday, might just get him across the line.
It’s interesting to see Richard Gibson calling on Zac Purton more and more. Here they team up with My Savvy, but being drawn barrier 11 over this 1000m sprint hurts its chances.
Being the first leg of the Six Up, tread warily even though I only see three winning chances.
With its lightweight including the much-improved Alvin Ng’s claim, Fat Choy Hong Kong led all the way over course and distance at around 52 to 1. One doesn’t have to be a genius to realise that there was no stable confidence. The only person we know who had $3k on it to win was a casual racegoer and lady friend of mine who liked the name as it was Lunar New Year with many wishing each other Kung Hei Fat Choy. And Fat Choy it was for her who had backed Oriental Prosper-26 to 1- in the previous race because, yes, she liked the name as everyone was hoping for a prosperous New Year. I can’t see any fat choy tonight though as this is a very open first leg to the Triple Trio.
Owner Peter Law has Twin Delight running, and though drawn out wide, it has The Zac Attack on it and, these days, no barriers can stop the Boy Wonder from Coffs Harbour.
Douglas Whyte seems to have jumped off the enigmatic Chater Dream for Jazzy Feeling, which could win without surprising.
Apart from Chater Dream, David “Darth” Ferraris has Amazingly entered with new boy Damian Lane booked for the ride. And unless he wishes to incur The Wrath Of Darth, he’d better not make any mistakes on it.
Frankly, other than Twin Delight, and, perhaps, Jazzy Feeling, there’s nothing I like here though David Hall taking Mr Genuine to Happy Valley for the first time and booking Ben So for the ride catches the eye.
Whenever a horse has been primed for a win, Ben So is usually the Go To jockey for the same two stables- Peter Ho and David Hall.
Caspar Fownes, below, has Disciples Twelve and the speedy Imperial Champion entered, and it would be no surprise to see them running into a quinella place.
There was interest from Sydney recently about purchasing Imperial Champion and there was absolutely zero interest in selling it, which means the owners and trainer believe they’re going to be seeing a return on their investment and time.
With three runners from the stable entered, the John Size-trained Victorious appears the main chance though incredibly hard to follow whereas his two other runners, especially Silly Buddies, are not without chances to place at odds.
The So-Ho combination of trainer Peter Ho and Ben So came very close to winning with Trendy Win over course and distance at its last start and should go close again. Goodheart Success, especially, and Douglas Whyte persisting with the somewhat disappointing First Sight Love, which once looked like being a Valley specialist, look the other main chances.
John Size, an amazing trainer who goes about his business in a low key manner and consistently produces the goods, has a surprising number of runners for a Happy Valley meeting, and here he has Eye On You, which looks a huge chance in what could be a Moreira-Purton quinella- Eye On You and All The Best, respectively.
Size and Moreira combine again, this time with Entrusting which has an outstanding winning chance with the main danger appearing to be another Zac Purton-Caspar Fownes runner in Renaissance Art.
Brett Prebble has a very rare ride for Tony Cruz (Jolly Gene) which can place along with Executive Mandate, Monsieur Mogok and the very honest Wrath Of Fire.
For outsiders in the Quartet take the hard-to-follow Backbench Blues and the Andreas Schutz-trained Admiral Lord. Schutz was unlucky not to have had a winner with Packing Llaregyb on Sunday. And with 7 winners on the board so far, Schutz desperately needs winners to make the quota needed to guarantee him a trainer’s license for next season.
BEST BET: RACE 9 ENSURING (3)
NEXT BET: RACE 6 DISCIPLES TWELVE (3)
LONGSHOT: MR GENUINE (11)
More so when Zac is a better rider than Joao