Racing

Purton keeps the pressure on Moreira

He draws level but Moreira fights back to maintain a one-winner lead in the Hong Kong jockeys' premiership quest

The battle for riding supremacy in Hong Kong has intensified, thrilling racegoers and keeping them in suspense.

Reigning champion Zac Purton started last Sunday's proceedings just two winners behind former three-time champion Joao Moreira, after having narrowed the gap steadily over the past couple of weeks.

But a double in Races 3 and 4 - aboard Good Luck Friend and Tung Wah Glory respectively - put the Australian on level terms with the Brazilian.

But Moreira did not take it lying down. He kicked one ahead on Ping Hai Bravo in Race 5, before Wellington put Purton back on paragain in Race 7.

Moreira then rounded up the 10-race card aboard Seattle Choice to end the day still ahead - but from two winners to one.

The score now: 89-88.

Mauritian jockey Karis Teetan is a distant third, with 50 winners.

Moreira came close in the first two races, no thanks to party spoiler Grant van Niekerk.

The South African thwarted Moreira in the opener on the Peter Ho-trained Breeze Of Spring, who arrived late to mug Moreira's mount Evan Almighty.

Van Niekerk pulled off the same trick in the next event, driving the Richard Gibson-trained Full Power to pip Moreira on Family Leader.

The HK$20 million (S$3.73 million BMW Hong Kong Derby over 2,000m in Race 8 nearly produced a mammoth boilover.

Had jockey Blake Shinn's field-rounding move worked out, he would have masterminded the biggest Hong Kong Derby upset since Holy Grail's 183-1 shock in 1999.

His 289-1 mount Playa Del Puente lost by just a neck to 1.7 favourite Golden Sixty.

The victory was a first in the event for jockey Vincent Ho, who ended a run of outs for "homegrown" riders in the blue-riband race going back to 1995.

It was also a first Derby for trainer Francis Lui and owner Stanley Chan, and the first time in the professional era - since 1971 - that a native Hong Kong trainer, jockey and owner combined for victory.

Shin was full of praise for his long-shot mount.

"He ran his heart out," the Australian said. "We left nothing to chance and put everything on the table when they slowed mid-race, we put it to the rest of the field.

"I knew my horse had a lot of stamina and I had confidence taking off that he would keep going - he did that, he was there for me, he just got beat by a superstar horse on the rise."

Golden Sixty became only the second horse, after Rapper Dragon in 2017, to win all three legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.

He had early captured the Hong Kong Classic Mile over 1,600m and the Hong Kong Classic Cup over 1,800m.

HORSE RACING