Zac Purton leads the Hong Kong jockeys’ title race by two after riding a double at Happy Valley on Wednesday. The Australian is booked to ride in nine of the 10 races at Sha Tin on Sunday, while his leading rival, Joao Moreira, has a ride in all 10. 

Ultra-consistent War Of Courage can win again

Given how competitive racing is in Hong Kong, to have had six career starts and to have yet to have finished outside of the first three shows how consistent WAR OF COURAGE has been in his three-year-old campaign.

He lines up in the Class 3 Lai Chi Chong Handicap (8:35am) over the straight 5f and he looks sure to go close to a third win in Hong Kong. Last time he was stepped up to 6f and although he ran with plenty of credit, a combination of a bad draw and the extra distance didn’t seem to entirely suit the son of Declaration Of War.

From stall 11, jockey Chad Schofield was forced to use up plenty of energy in order to gain a good position and it looked like he needed that energy when beaten into third. The form of that run looks solid, though, with the winner, Relentless Me, going in again subsequently, beating the sixth, Stanley Park, by a head last weekend.

War Of Courage is back down to 5f on Sunday and has drawn stall 14, both of which should be much more to his liking. He runs off the same mark of 71 and with the assistance of the rail, he should be hard to catch.

Oasis has a Super chance in Sha Tin feature

The best race on the Sha Tin card is the Class 2 Hoi Ha Handicap (9:35am) and this can go the way of SUPER OASIS for Purton. The four-year-old is still a maiden having failed to win any of his 10 career races so far, but he’s been close to putting it all together for a while now. He was third in a Group 1 in Australia and, bar a nine-length defeat last time, he’s run well on all of his starts in HK.

That defeat came in the Hong Kong Derby which was clearly a step too far and back down in a handicap he looks primed to run well here. One should always take note of horses having their first start for a new trainer and that’s the case with Super Oasis who is now under the care of trainers’ championship leader Ricky Yiu.

He was very impressive under Purton in a recent trial and given he’s coming out of the dream berth in stall one, everything looks poised for a big performance.

Excellent finish on the cards

Though the title race is very much a two-horse race between Purton and Moreira, they by no means have a monopoly on all the top rides in Hong Kong.

Some of the region’s most coveted prizes have slipped through the fingers of its two leading jockeys, with Karis Teetan winning the International Jockeys Championship (IJC) event in December, beating off competition from the like of Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori, and then taking the Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize aboard Mr Stunning last month.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Derby is probably the most sought-after prize in Hong Kong and this year it went to up and coming local rider Vincent Ho and the brilliant Golden Sixty.

Ho’s best chance of taking the limelight off Purton and Moreira comes aboard KA YING EXCELLENT in the Class 3 Sham Chung Handicap (10:10am) over 7f.

The son of Holy Roman Emperor has finished in the first three on five of his nine career starts, all this season, and runs behind the highly regarded Wellington and Juneau Park read well. Two starts back he comfortably beat Chairman Lo and Loriz, both of whom won next time out, while his last effort saw him finish a gallant third under top weight behind two very progressive types.

Trainer Tony Cruz lets him take his chance at Class 3 level for the first time on Sunday and that means he sits at the bottom of the weights.

Moreira’s claims on the ultra-consistent Picken are solid but not exciting, while Purton’s mount, Taking Aim, needs to put in a season’s best to hit the frame.

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