Of all the jockeys in Hong Kong who need a boost, four-time champion – and current premiership leader – Zac Purton is probably not one of them.
It seems Mother Nature doesn’t agree, however, with the Typhoon Kompasu-enforced cancellation of Wednesday night’s Happy Valley card ensuring the star Australian misses just one meeting through suspension rather than two – maybe she has found common ground in the pair’s take-no-prisoners approach?
After missing Sunday at Sha Tin, the midweek fixture was to be the second of Purton’s suspension and as bans are meted out in dates, the jockey remains free to resume riding on the weekend despite only missing one meeting.
It’s a system that ensures simplicity – imagine the headaches if Purton’s ban all of a sudden carried over to this Sunday’s Group Two meeting – and one Jockey Club chief steward Kim Kelly says there is “no consideration whatsoever to reviewing”.
The result is that the four-win lead over Joao Moreira that Purton took into his suspension remains intact after the Brazilian went winless on Sunday and while it’s only early days, every little edge will count in what is shaping as another titanic struggle between the long-time rivals.
Purton maintains it’s not all beer and skittles though, with the lost meeting creating what he labelled “a bit of a problem” but would more likely resemble a welcome embarrassment of riches for most Hong Kong riders.
“A lot of the horses I was going to ride this week I’d pushed to run next week and now the horses that were meant to run this week will get preference next week so I don’t know if my horses are going to get in,” he said.
“I’ve got trainers that had horses running on Wednesday night that now want to know if I can ride their horse next week.”
It’s a flow-on effect that will be felt for a few weeks as the Jockey Club scrambles to catch up and the nine-race Happy Valley cards that became the norm last season look certain to be back in vogue.
Trainers will be doing some serious juggling as they look to get horses to the races, with the likes of Frankie Lor Fu-chuen, who had seven horses entered to run at the lost meeting, Ricky Yiu Poon-fai and Chris So Wai-yin (six runners each) heavily impacted.
On the flip side to Purton is Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, who for a fleeting moment thought he might get the Purton treatment as Tropical Storm Lionrock pounded Hong Kong in the lead-up to Sunday’s meeting.
That bout of wild weather ultimately passed in time to race on and Sunday was the last meeting of a suspension that has kept Ho out of the saddle since October 1.
On top of not getting a discount on his ban, Hong Kong’s leading local jockey has had his absence from the saddle stretched after saying on Tuesday that “it’s taken ages and I’m happy to be back” as he itches to get back to work in rectifying a slow start to the season.
Ho had a full book of eight rides, as did Moreira, while Luke Ferraris is another who will be smarting – his seven rides would have been the most he’d had at a meeting in over a month and he looked to have a couple of chances to add to his two Hong Kong winners.
The overall cost will be limited, however, with the Jockey Club swiftly identifying December 29 as the right time to slot in a replacement meeting, ensuring the roughly HK$1.25 billion in turnover that went begging on Wednesday night will be recouped.
The replacement card also solves another issue in that it takes care of that pesky four-day gap between the public holiday meetings on December 27 and January 1. What festive season?