Michael Cox



Zac v Joao: Purton Sizes up title

Is the John Size-Joao Moreira professional relationship, as we have come to know it, over? Michael Cox on what that may mean for the Hong Kong jockeys’ premiership.

With five meetings left and Zac Purton holding a two-win lead in the Hong Kong jockeys’ premiership, it’s go-time if Joao Moreira wants to salvage his title hopes.

SHA TIN, ‘C’ course, Friday, July 1, ten races

Zac Purton: 129 wins

Joao Moreira: 127 wins


Let’s cut straight to the elephant in the room: is the John Size-Joao Moreira professional relationship, as we have come to know it, over? 

When fields and riders were revealed for Friday’s meeting at Sha Tin the first thing any Hong Kong racing fan looked for was which jockey – Moreira or Purton – would be aboard Size’s runners.

Moreira is on just one of Size’s runners and Purton is on three including top chances Beauty Tycoon and Tuchel.   

The dramatic shift in Size’s support is not only a savage blow to Moreira’s title chances, it raises questions for next season and beyond. 

It would also seem that ongoing rumours of a rift in the Size-Moreira relationship have been validated, although it is possible Moreira is simply searching for the right rides. 

Of course Size is himself in a desperate title battle that is slipping away; he trails his former assistant Frankie Lor by seven wins with five meetings remaining: perhaps the desperation of his situation has brought a change in thinking. 

Just as when Size ended his support for Douglas Whyte ahead of Moreira’s arrival in 2013, nobody is talking about the elephant, but the rider declarations spoke volumes. 


Zac Purton on Nervous Witness. (Photo by HKJC)


Zac Purton: Nervous Witness

Joao Moreira: Master Eight 

When the early-season spruik horse Nervous Witness produced a bold second in the G3 Sha Tin Vase last month, a burning question was answered in the affirmative: would the David Hayes-trained talent be competitive beyond 1000m? 

Nervous Witness jumped five ratings points on that performance and now finds himself with a chance in another serious race over 1200m. 

Master Eight is the more proven horse though and gives Nervous Witness five pounds here. Frankie Lor’s four-year-old won the Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy as 1.3 favourite over 1000m. He was then unplaced as second-favourite in a Group One and has raced well in two starts since.  

This shapes as an absorbing battle of tactics and test of nerve up front: Purton will make a beeline for the rail from barrier nine but below him in gate seven, Master Eight has some serious speed too. These two speed machines eye-balling each other up front in the feature race – along with the two jockeys –  will make for great theatre.

Joao Moreira on Master Eight. (Photo by HKJC)


Race 8, 1. Beauty Tycoon.

A win here for Purton aboard Beauty Tycoon – a horse Moreira produced a shocker on when beaten as 1.7 favourite last start – would be a hammer blow to the Brazilian’s chances. Another stomach punch for Moreira is that he doesn’t even have a ride in the race. 

Not only is it a free kick for Purton, it is a clear case of a ‘double points’ opportunity: one more win for Purton, one that got away for Moreira, and perhaps a pivotal moment in this epic title chase. 

On Beauty Tycoon: the three-year-old will start odds-on again after drawing low here. A word of warning though: it is always a danger when a young horse climbs to the top of Class 4 without winning and starts giving weight to older horses. In Beauty Tycoon’s favour is that most of those older rivals are out of form and he faces five fellow three-year-olds, two of them raw prospects on debut. Beauty Tycoon has points in hand and should win comfortably. 


Race 4, 8. Winwin Thirtythree. 

That Moreira’s chances hinge heavily a horse with two wins from 46 starts – one who hasn’t won in 13 starts this season – is a sign of the Magic Man’s predicament. 

Class 5 handicaps – a last chance saloon full of horses with low ability, physical ailments and, generally, an intense dislike for life in Hong Kong – are derided by some but a win counts the same as a Group One for the jockeys’ championship. 

Moreira went desperately close on Winwin Thirtythree over the course and distance last start and most likely would have won if not for a mid-race buffeting he copped from interference up ahead; it cost him a couple of lengths of position and the race. With even luck here from the same draw, he can peg a win back early in the day.

Joao Moreira riding Winwin Thirtythree. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images)

Zac Purton wins on Beauty Tycoon. (Photo by HKJC)


It’s hard to go past the psychological blow of Moreira losing the Beauty Tycoon ride to Purton. No race is easy in Hong Kong but this looks like a gimme for the Australian. Then there is the overall shift in support from Size. 

Purton not only has ten rides to Moreira’s eight, his book is stronger across the board and if Moreira can keep the gap to two he will consider that a win.

Zac Purton v Joao Moreira - July 1

RaceZac PurtonJoao Moreira
Race 1Strive For Glory-
Race 2E Brother Super Sunny Sing
Race 3Beluga Sight Spirit
Race 4Mission Smart Winwin Thirtythree
Race 5ForteLucky Gor
Race 6Ha Lee CharmStunning Impact
Race 7Nervous WitnessMaster Eight
Race 8Beauty Tycoon-
Race 9TuchelNearly Fine
Race 10Midori Beauty Sakewin



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