Not since Brett Prebble pushed Douglas Whyte to within one win, all of eight years ago, has the Hong Kong Jockeys’ Premiership produced a head-to-head duel to the last. But with Joao Moreira clinging to a two-win lead over the fast-closing Zac Purton, this season’s contest has the makings of a classic thriller.
The two protagonists, though, hold differing views as to how the race will unfold through the campaign’s final 13 meetings.
“I don’t think it’s a fight, Zac is going past me,” Moreira, the defending champion, said during a candid interview at Sha Tin this morning (Tuesday, 29 May).
Purton, shortly after a steaming barrier trial session beneath a beating morning sun, was not convinced.
“The way I see it, Joao’s still in front and people are trying to put the cart before the horse,” he said.
Purton is the man who wrested the title from Douglas Whyte after the South African had dominated for 13 straight seasons. That was in 2014, but for the past three seasons, the Australian has had to play second fiddle to the Moreira juggernaut, the Brazilian ace smashing records seemingly for fun and streaking to wide margin championship wins.
This term, the tide has shifted, even if it has not yet entirely turned. Moreira believes his own imperfections have led to that shift, particularly with how he has dealt with trainers in his attempt to maintain a significant upper-hand in Hong Kong’s ruthlessly competitive environment.
“I picked and chose some wrong horses earlier in the season, halfway through, and that got some trainers upset,” he said. “For picking those wrong horses, trainers are not willing to support me as much as they were. That was my mistake, picking the wrong horses and not being able to keep them (the trainers) happy.