While racing in most of the world is in partial or total shutdown, Hong Kong is looking like a great survivor. Despite a seven-million-plus population packed into such a relatively small territory, the number of cases is low compared with most countries (453 with four deaths are the latest figures) and the sport there is generating plenty of excitement, albeit as a spectator-free zone.
Indeed, in a land where the riders are national heroes and the jockeys’ title is one of the ultimate prizes, this year’s edition looks set to have racefans on their edge of their armchairs.
It’s taken 52 race meetings but a Zac Purton double at Happy Valley on Wednesday evening meant the champion jockey poked his nose into the lead in the title race for the first time since late September.
The Australian world #5 arrived one win behind great rival Joao Moreira, who is currently world #16, haveing outpointed the Brazilian by three wins to two at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The championship race seems set for a ding-dong battle through to the season’s final meeting at the Valley on 15 July. “It looks that way but we’ll just see what happens. It’s going to come down to which of us gets the better support – that’ll be the decisive factor,” Purton said.
Purton (90 wins) and Moreira (89) are well clear of the rest of the jockeys’ pack, but a fascinating secondary battle is taking shape after Grant van Niekerk bagged a hat-trick yesterday.
The South African has struck a rich seam of success lately, and, with his trio arriving on the back of a brace at Sha Tin last weekend, he is accelerating into a three-way race for third place in this season’s premiership.
Karis Teetan currently holds the coveted third spot with 50 wins, five ahead of Vincent Ho, winner of the Hong Kong Derby on Golden Sixty on Sunday, while Van Niekerk is now on 37.