Hong Kong – Zac Purton won the Hong Kong Jockeys’ Championship by a short-head in a thrilling finish at Sha Tin yesterday. The Australian ended up just two winners clear of Brazilian star Joao “Magic Man” Moreira.
It is Purton’s second Hong Kong championship, the previous having come in 2013-14 when he dethroned 13-time champ Douglas Whyte of South Africa.
Moreira, seen by many as the best jockey in the world, was bidding for a fourth Hong Kong title before relocating to Japan. The two riders went into the last meeting of the season four wins apart: Purton on 135 and Moreira on 131.
Both had 11 rides on the day and Purton must have suffered a shiver of anxiety when his rival won the first race on Cash Courier.
But then neither of them could get into the winner’s circle for another six races. And then it was Purton, aboard the Caspar Fownes-trained Rise High. That victory – with just three races of the season left – meant he could not be caught by Moreira. Undaunted – and as if to prove a point – Magic Man proceeded to win the next two races back-to- back: Race 9 on Bold Stitch for South African Tony Millard and Race 10 on Superich for trainer FC Lor.
In the eleventh and final race, Moreira and Purton finished second and third respectively – behind Whyte, who piloted home Star Shine to give himself a double on the celebratory final day of the season, following his win on Viva Council in Race 6.
Moreira led the title race for most of the season, but Purton crept up on him and forged into the lead after a good day at Sha Tin on 10 June.
He was then able to repel his record-breaking rival, who became the darling of the Hong Kong faithful when storming to three riding titles following his move from Singapore in 2013.
“A month ago I thought I’d be able to win it quite comfortably and then Joao got a second wind and made a run at me,” said Purton, who moved to Hong Kong 10 years ago.
“He’s definitely had the better book of rides the last month.
I had to weather the storm and knuckle down and get the job done. I came here today with a nice lead – four in front – but he had a very strong book of rides and I thought I could win one, maybe two if I was lucky.
“As things turned out, one was enough, and it’s a nice, fitting end to what’s been a great season,” said Purton. – racingpost.com