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Championship a fait accompli for Zac Purton after ban dashes Joao Moreira’s hopes

Barring a miracle, Zac Purton will win his fourth Hong Kong jockeys’ championship after key rival Joao Moreira was rubbed out by stewards at Sha Tin on Sunday.

The Brazilian, who was already going to miss Wednesday night’s Happy Valley card through suspension, will now sit out the last day of the season as well, meaning he will ride at just one of the three remaining meetings.

Purton, who is free to ride at all of them, holds a six-win advantage over Moreira.

It comes as the Australian further extended his lead on Sunday with a treble to the Brazilian’s double.

“It is obviously a good position to be in with a free kick on Wednesday so hopefully I can make the most of it,” Purton said. “It is looking pretty good for me, hopefully I can finish it off with a few more winners.”

Moreira felt the ire of the stewards for his ride on Lucky Express in the Class Two Yan Chau Tong Handicap (1,200m) where he pleaded guilty to careless riding when he shifted in on Purton at the 150m mark. It also cost him a HK$150,000 fine.

Fittingly, Purton enjoyed a double with departing trainer John Moore who had a day out, netting a running treble thanks to Sunny Boy (Purton), So We Joy (Moreira) and Awe (Purton).

“I’m really pleased with that – three winners,” Moore said. “We had a target of 50 to 55 winners and we’ve surpassed that so it’s been a really good season after what we did with 75 winners last season.”

Reflecting on his time in Hong Kong, Moore said both Purton and Moreira were among the best riders he had seen in the jurisdiction.

“I have seen [Mick] Kinane and some of the best, Roy Higgins for dad’s [George Moore] stable when he came here,” he said.

“I have seen Roy Stevens, these are all great jockeys so I couldn’t say these are the two best I have ever seen because I have seen them all, but they are right up there. Ryan Moore when he comes here, Lester Piggott, so there is not one stand-out except for my father, of course.

“Like all trainers we ring up asking if they can ride and most of the time it is no because they’re so busy.”

The occasion was not lost on Purton, who said the pair enjoyed a moment after their win with Awe in the Class Three Tolo Harbour Handicap (1,400m).

“I said to John after our last winner ‘I never thought I’d say this, especially not a few seasons ago, but I am going to miss him’,” he laughed.

“The last three seasons we have had together have been great, he has provided me with a lot of winners, a lot of big-race winners, so it is going to be a big hole to fill when he’s gone.

“In Australia, I didn’t work as closely with the trainers as you do here, so being able to see how he runs his operation and being able to stand in the trainers’ stand and get his thoughts on the way he does things, it’s good.

“He is a different character but he is a special trainer and what he has been able to achieve here has been phenomenal.”

Purton also won on the Jimmy Ting Koon-ho-trained Perfect Pair while Moreira aided Francis Lui Kin-wai title hopes by saluting on Chancheng Prince.

Incredibly, the two have ridden 276 winners between them from the 799 races so far this season.

It will be Purton’s third consecutive premiership, mirroring Moreira, who achieved the same feat from 2014-15 to 2016-17.

Along with the legendary Douglas Whyte, who had 13 in a row, no other jockey has won a Hong Kong title since 2000.

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