The contenders are going all out to grab the title, so give their horses that little bit of extra attention and conditioning and every one should be carefully considered.
As a racing season nears its end, with a tight fight for championship honours, punters can often cash in. The contenders are going all out to grab the title, so give their horses that little bit of extra attention and conditioning and every one should be carefully considered.
There are three race meetings left in Hong Kong’s season – on Wednesday 8 July, Sunday 12 July and Wednesday 15 July – and homegrown trainers Ricky Yiu Poon-fai and Francis Lui Kin-wai are neck-and-neck on 64 and 63 winners apiece (the championship there being decided on number of wins not accumulated prize winnings, as in South Africa.)
Hot on their heels are expat trainers Tony Cruz and John Moore on 60 and 56.
“Durban Demon” Douglas Whyte – a 13-time champion jockey in Hong Kong – is set to finish in ninth place on the trainers’ log in his debut season on the other side of the fence. He currently sits on 40 winners, with compatriots Tony Millard and David Ferraris a little lower down on 30 and 20 respectively
In Hong Kong, it’s often the jockey’s championship that grabs attention, but it seems like Australian Zac Purton has it sewn up early this time. He’s six wins clear of Brazilian challenger Joao Moreira with just three race meetings to go, and the latter has to take a one-meeting suspension for careless riding.
South Africans will be proud to see that SA Jockey Academy-schooled Mauritian Karis Teetan is certain of third place on the log (currently with 88 wins to Purton’s 141).
Interestingly, Cape Town’s Grant van Niekerk will finish in sixth place on 37 wins after a whirlwind time in Hong Kong – starting like a house on fire but finishing ignominiously when his licence was cancelled following an off-track “incident”.
Van Niekerk was recently granted a provisional licence back home – with stipulations that he behave himself. He has wasted no time in getting among the winners again and even landed a cherished Vodacom Durban July booking – on Justin Snaith-trained Bunker Hunt (quietly fancied at 17-2 for the big one).
Hong Kong trainers’ log leader Yiu this week called for an increase in the number of jockeys licenced in the enclave, complaining that he struggles to book the likes of Purton, Moreira and Teetan.
This will be frustrating reading for young South African jockeys Callan Murray and Lyle Hewitson after both endured lean spells in Hong Kong – unable to crack decent mounts despite their obvious talents. (Hong Kong owners are notoriously biased towards certain favoured riders.)
The Hong Kong Jockey Club is making a song and dance about a very slight easing of restrictions on public attendance at its racetracks. It was the first jurisdiction in the world to ban all spectators – and reaped benefits in missing very few fixtures as the coronavirus bomb exploded.
Following lub members, owners and box-holders being allowed back on course, this week 700 ordinary punters got permission to dot themselves around grandstands that can take 70,000 and more. They had to apply in advance, produce health declarations and pass stringent screening.
It all appears to have gone well, with journalists welcoming the punters’ shouts echoing around the concrete vastness – a happy change from eerie silences at the end of otherwise exciting races.
Documentation of the success of this venture might help South African racing authorities as they try to prise racecourse attendance concessions out of the politicians. SA owners of horses have recently cracked the nod and a phased introduction of increasing numbers of fans would seem to be the logical next step.
Other good news on the post-pandemic horizon is the restart of racing in Singapore this coming weekend.
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