Purton and Moreira: jockeys’ room perspectives
Three riders share their views as to what makes the ‘big two’ so dominant.
Well, here it is at last: race meeting number 88 of the 2021-22 Hong Kong season and Zac Purton and Joao Moreira are all but inseparable at the top of the jockeys’ premiership. For 10 and a half months the two warriors of the weighing room have battled it out around Sha Tin and Happy Valley and now they have races 827 through 837 to determine who will be champion again.
The two protagonists have been doing this every season since 2014 but it has never been this close. Each has four Hong Kong premiership trophies but with their tallies locked at 132 wins apiece – 32 per cent of all wins this season – it is going down to the wire after a grinding campaign that has seen the lead switch between them half a dozen times.
The past few weeks – their veteran bodies having endured the rigours of race falls, illness and the wear and tear that comes with being an athlete approaching 40 – have seen them trade blows, race-by-race.
It has been like that epic fight scene from The Quiet Man, a film from Hollywood’s golden age, when John Wayne and Victor McLaglen trade punches all around the village until, bludgeoned to a standstill, they pause in the local pub and Wayne finally lands the mighty knockout.
Who will be standing triumphant at the end of Saturday’s 11 races is anyone’s guess at this point but the battle has been enthralling not only for racing fans but also for the men who share the jockeys’ room with Hong Kong’s two outstanding riders of their age.
“One thing about them is they’re both very hungry to succeed,” says Derek Leung, who has been well-placed to observe the ‘big two’ at a time when the jockey cohort has been divided into two separate groups on race days as a Covid-19 safeguard. “I sit next to Zac now in the jockeys’ room and last season I sat next to Joao.”