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Joao Moreira vs Zac Purton: calm before the storm as season enters final fortnight

The 2021-22 Hong Kong racing season has entered its final fortnight and with four meetings remaining in the campaign, things could hardly be any tighter between Zac Purton and Joao Moreira in the race for the jockeys’ title.

After a run of eight meetings with at least one winner in a stretch that featured a four-timer and two trebles, Purton has now gone winless at consecutive fixtures and holds the narrowest of leads over Moreira with 129 victories to 128.

Purton banged in 17 winners during his eight-meeting purple patch to regain the lead from Moreira, who could only manage seven winners during the same period.

Further slowing the Magic Man’s progress was the fact he missed the best part of two meetings after suffering from an irregular heartbeat and his win aboard Super Sunny Sing at Sha Tin on Friday was his first since June 19.

Moreira has a numerical advantage over Purton at Happy Valley on Wednesday night as both riders look to return to their best, boasting a full book of nine rides in comparison to the Australian’s eight.

Moreira has only one ride for John Size for the second straight meeting, with mounts from his biggest supporter drying up in the final stages of the season, but it comes in the form of consistent sprinter Special M.

He also sticks with Francis Lui Kin-wai’s last-start winner Rising From Ashes and Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s Leslie, who was runner-up last time out, while he jumps aboard Tailor Made and Double Six Pop for Caspar Fownes.

Double Six Pop has his first start for Fownes after switching from the Tony Millard stable and looks to have some ability despite an uninspiring start to his Hong Kong career.

Purton chases a fourth win of the season aboard Stoltz for Lui, while he also has chances with Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained pair The Runner and Go For Tea and Danny Shum Chap-shing’s See U Again.

On the training front, Size trimmed Lor’s title lead back to five with a treble on Friday and saddles up six runners at the midweek meeting as he tries to keep his faint hopes of a record 12th premiership alive.

Meanwhile, Blake Shinn has five rides at the final meeting of his three-year stay in Hong Kong.

The Australian jockey, who will miss the final three meetings of the season through suspension, is heading home to ride and the Jimmy Ting Koon-ho-trained Our Creed and Dennis Yip Chor-hong’s Flash Famous look his best chances of going out a winner.

While Shinn is on the way out, Brazilian jockey Vagner Borges will re-enter the fray at Sha Tin this weekend after being sidelined as a Covid-19 close contact.

Borges, who hasn’t ridden since the Sha Tin meeting on June 12, was cleared to return on Saturday but didn’t manage to secure any rides for the Happy Valley meeting.

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