Racing already as Purton and Moreira shuffle to the top

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Raging Storm

The Jockeys’ Premiership in Hong Kong has a familiar feel to it after only three meetings, with the circuit’s three-time champions Joao Moreira and Zac Purton already threatening to edge away from the pack. Moreira heads into Sunday’s (15 September) Sha Tin fixture with a full book of 10 rides, reigning champ Purton has nine.

On Wednesday night at Happy Valley, Purton drew his first blank at a Hong Kong race meeting since 17 April – that’s 26 consecutive fixtures with at least one win in the bag – leaving him on four wins so far. Moreira collected a brace to top up his treble from three days prior, for a tally of five wins and counting.

Purton is booked for Racing Fighter (124lb) in the weekend’s standout contest, the Class 2 Tailorbird Handicap (1200m), and is aiming to seal a hat-trick of victories on the Dennis Yip-trained five-year-old, despite drawing gate 11 of 12. “It’s not a good gate: it makes it hard, so we’re going to need some luck,” the rider said.

Purton has ridden the Mastercraftsman gelding in each of his last seven races, winning three and making the frame in all of the other four. Two of those wins came back-to-back to round out the smart grey’s 2018/19 season. “He’s done nothing wrong and he continued to get better last season as time went on,” Purton said. “His trial recently was quite good so he’s still in good form and hopefully he’s got another win in him.”

Raging Storm (128lb) was seventh to Racing Fighter when the latter wrapped up his term, but went on to finish his own campaign with a close third in a hot Class 2 at the course and distance in July. The John Size-trained gelding has a career record of five wins from 14 starts, and two from eight last season. “He’s not an easy horse to ride,” Moreira said. “People might remember his first few runs in Hong Kong, he snaked around with me, in and out, and kind of refused to race under pressure. He wasn’t so comfortable among horses.”

But the Brazilian believes the five-year-old “has been improving”, and, even though the horse “might need a few runs to show his best”, he has some confidence that Raging Storm is in good enough heart to run well from gate six. “He has won coming from behind, from midfield, and that’s the most difficult part of him. He’s not the kind of horse you can have on the hand all the way through the race. When he gets to a split and feels himself going into a nice space, he dashes home and is very strong on the line,” he said. “His last run last season was very good, very impressive – he should have won the race but he had a little bit of an excuse. If he produces his best, I definitely think he’s a chance.”

The 12-runner contest also features the John Moore-trained Styling City(130lb), who tried to make all before fading to fourth in the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup (1200m) at the season opener two weeks ago. Blake Shinn nailed his first Hong Kong win on Wednesday and is set to take the reins, having partnered in a gallop on Thursday (12 September).

“Blake thought that his work down the back straight was really good and he’s going into the race with high hopes of being able to get in a position he wants to be early,” Moore said. “This is an on-pace horse, he gets up on the speed and he’s done everything right going into it. His first run, he was gassed at the 200 metres, he just blew up but he’ll come into this fit and ready to go close.”

Moore has also engaged Hello Beauty (115lb), the mount of Chad Schofield. “Hello Beauty is well and he has a bit of upside to him but, first-up, he might just lack that race sharpness of a couple of the others,” the seven-time champion trainer said.

High-weight California Whip (133lb) is slated to have Alfred Chan’s 10lb claim, while the field also features the Frankie Lor-trained Fat Turtle (117lb).

The afternoon’s trophy contest is the Class 3 Fakei Cup Handicap (1200m), in which New Asia Sunrise (123lb) will attempt to build on an eye-catching first-up run on opening day.

The Me Tusi-trained seven-year-old has not won since a Class 2 1400m score – rated 95 – back in May 2017. But the gelding, who peaked thereafter at a mark of 103 and is now down to 70, boxed on gamely for third behind the rising talents Golden Sixty and Mr Croissant last time. Vincent Ho was atop the exciting winner, Golden Sixty, on that occasion and takes New Asia Sunrise’s reins this time.

“He ran ok last start and it was a good time, too,” Ho said. “He was beaten two and a half lengths behind Golden Sixty so if he has kept his form he should have a good chance. “The draw (six) is fine for him, he’s quite fast so hopefully he should get a good position and then we’ll see how the race pans out.”

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