If you happen to be an elite-level jockey sweating on when might be the right time to move to Hong Kong and assume top-dog status, you’re on quite the roller-coaster ride.
The future of Joao Moreira remains up in the air, but it’s hard to imagine he’s more than a 50-50 chance to return to Hong Kong.
Karis Teetan – the incumbent heir to the throne should Moreira and Zac Purton depart – is
also sidelined indefinitely with a thyroid condition that won’t go away.
Then there’s Purton.
If you’re waiting for the five-time champion jockey’s exit before upping stumps and moving to Sha Tin – say you’re Hugh Bowman, perhaps – there have been times in recent weeks when you could’ve been forgiven for thinking you’d be packing your bags sooner rather than later.
As he’s battled through numerous injuries in the first month of the season, Purton has outlined how hard he found it to come back this term, and how often the thought of retiring has entered his mind.
This week, however, Purton confirmed he’s operating at 90 per cent fitness and on the improve.
Kong record of 170 winners in his sights would suggest he might be staying put for a while yet.
Either way, it doesn’t matter. The time to come to Hong Kong is now.
While Purton might be dominating, there’s still more opportunities for everyone else than there has been in years.
All the proof you need was there at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, with Victor Wong Chun and Alfred Chan Ka-hei riding their first winners since May.
It’s not like they had to conjure some magic aboard rank outsiders, either. Chan delivered on favourite Sugar Sugar – and could well partner another market leader in Big Me this weekend – while Wong saluted aboard $8.9 shot Handsome Rebel, the shortest-priced galloper he’s partnered in more than five months.
The opportunities are there, make no doubt about that. After spending this week “demystifying” concerns around Hong Kong still being a closed shop ahead of overseas entries closing for December’s international races, the Jockey Club should shift its focus to making it very clear to riders abroad just what chances are on offer here.
Interesting is the news Jockey Club stewards have granted Danny Shum Chap-shing permission to fly in James McDonald to partner Romantic Warrior in next month’s Group Two Jockey Club Mile, should Karis Teetan remain unavailable and Purton stick with California Spangle, as expected.
Shum’s contingency plan comes in the same week Purton announced on Australian radio McDonald “is stupid for staying in Australia” when “he could make six to seven times” more money in Hong Kong.
Maybe a trip to Sha Tin next month will give McDonald a chance to do his sums.
It sounds as though one Melbourne Cup-winning jockey has done the maths and likes what he sees, with the newest addition to the Hong Kong riding ranks expected to be announced sooner rather than later.
Then there’s Jamie Kah, with talk out of Australia suggesting she’ll feature in December’s International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley.
Kah has never ridden in Hong Kong. A reconnaissance, perhaps.
Chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges is confident the Jockey Club can attract a “very, very top” rider to Hong Kong for at least a short-term winter stint.
The impending announcement isn’t expected to quite fit that bill. Who will?
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