Racing

Purton stays ahead of Moreira

Wednesday's double puts Australian two winners in front of arch rival going into Sunday's Sha Tin meeting

Zac Purton might have two rides fewer on Wednesday night than arch-rival Joao Moreira in their intense battle for the Hong Kong champion jockey title, but the Australian managed to secure two winners - to only one for the Brazilian - at Happy Valley.

Purton had six rides. Moreira had a full book of nine but one of his mounts was scratched.

Purton arrived at the city track one win clear and he now heads to Sunday's Sha Tin meeting with the score at 116 to 114. He has nine mounts on Sunday. Moreira has a full book in the 10-race programme.

After Purton won on Compassion Spirit in Race 4 on Wednesday night, Moreira struck back aboard Smart Leader in Race 6. But Purton responded in the next race with a comfortable success on Victoriam.

Moreira partnered Victoriam four times earlier this term, bagging a front-running win two starts back. Although Purton held the reins for the first time, he made it count in section one of the Class 3 Cheung Lin Shan Handicap over 1,200m.

Trainer Francis Lui's four-year-old settled just behind the pace, peeled out and quickened at the final turn for an easing-down 13/4-length score that sets him up for a first tilt at Class 2 the next time he steps out.

"I think he has enough about him for Class 2," said Purton of the 133lb (60.45kg) topweight.

"He carried a heavy weight tonight and he's had to come from a bit of an awkward gate (seven). He's learning, so I think there's more there."

Compassion Spirit made light of an eight-point rise in the ratings from a last-start win, a 132lb burden and a wide draw in Gate 10 to kick away in the straight. He rolled past the post two lengths ahead of the field.

The impressive manner in which the Manfred Man-trained three-year-old swept aside his rivals in the Class 4 Mount Kellett Handicap over 1,200m suggested Class 3 next time should be well within his reach.

"I wasn't surprised by that. He showed last time that he was improving," said Purton of the 3.1 favourite.

Smart Leader gave Moreira his win in section two of the Class 3 Cheung Lin Shan Handicap over 1,200m.

The Tony Cruz-trained five-year-old tracked the lead after jumping from Gate 2. When his rider's vigorous urging demanded a tough response, his constitution ensured a gutsy 3/4-length success.

Also riding on the crest of a wave is latest Hong Kong arrival Antoine Hamelin. The Frenchman landed a double with Victorious Leader and Surrealism.

The brace has brought his tally to 11 winners from 10 meetings since his debut on April 12, when he also rode a double with Baltic Success and Best For You.

He achieved it in what is becoming a familiar style on Victorious Leader - a power-packed thrust, wide and late, to pip the leader Tigerlad by a short head.

His 15-1 winner - in section two of the Class 5 Siu Ma Shan Handicap over 1,200m - gave trainer Dennis Yip his 20th win of the campaign.

The French Derby-winning jockey closed the nine-race card with a 1/2-length triumph on the David Ferraris-trained Surrealism in the Class 3 D'Aguilar Handicap over 1,650m.

"I'm very happy. If I come back next season and can win like this, I will be very happy. I try to do the best every time and I have good support from trainers and owners," said Hamelin.

"It's very different here. There's a lot of respect in the jockeys' room here and you see that respect in the races. It's competitive, but there is respect in a race and that is important because it makes it easier to ride a race.

"We have only 20 jockeys and, while it's hard because the competition level is so high, it's easy because you know everyone out there knows his job. When you ride with the best, you learn more."

HORSE RACING