By Hans Ebert

He came extremely close to riding the winners of the first four races on the card on Happy Wednesday, but still ended up with four winners on the night.

When the Enquiry sign went up in the last race and where he had come second, many thought he would fire in an objection. If the objection was successful, Zac Purton would have ridden his one thousandth winner in Hong Kong. No small feat.

Thankfully, this didn’t happen. It would have been anticlimactic to get to that historic market because of an Enquiry and then an objection. There’s Saturday for this to happen.

This should happen aboard the highly rated John Moore trained galloper Thanks Forever- surely the headline has already been written- in the third race and his first ride for the afternoon at a meeting where “Poon Don”, as he’s known in Cantonese, seems to have decided to chill out and give the chasing pack the opportunity to shine.

He doesn’t even have a ride in the ninth race of the somewhat ho hum Saturday afternoon 10 race card with some rather surprising riding engagements. Keith Yeung has a ride for John Moore?

While the Zac Attack is in the zone- HIS zone with even Joao Moreira reduced to playing second banana- it’s about how to stop this runaway train next season and what looks like being a duopoly.

Moreira returns as a Club jockey. And though certain to have first call on John Size’s army, being a free agent will free him to try and once again be the mercurial Brazilian Magic Man who bedazzled Hong Kong racing fans two seasons ago.

The question is whether the magic potion will be strong enough juju medicine to stop the Zac Attack juggernaut that has elevated the Australian rider this season into Moses-like status.

This is why it’s both interesting and surprising to see Blake Shinn receive a six month license to ride in Hong Kong.

To many, Shinn was meant to ride in Hong Kong around 3-4 years ago. But this never materialised. Now it has. And no, despite what some kept mentioning, Australian rider Vlad Duric, currently champion jockey in Singapore, was never ever in the running for a Hong Kong license for next season.

Blake Shinn, however, has been in phenomenal form in Australia. All that hard work on the road to recovery after the horror of breaking his neck has and is paying off.

The rider has a brilliant curriculum vitae and one can see trainers offering him plenty of support. Will John Moore? Very likely. Will the champion trainer have his retirement extended by another two years? Apparently so.

With potentially champion young sprinters in his like Aethero and Thanks Forever in his stable and, of course, the world’s best miler Beauty Generation, these gallopers “belong” to John Moore.

Seeing the hard work he has invested in bringing these gallopers to where they are today, it would not be cricket to see them being inherited by another trainer or trainers. This won’t have a good look to it.

One also can’t see these horses going to another rider.

Possibly knowing there will be plans to unseat him with, at one time, James McDonald and Hugh Bowman being the main contenders, Zac Purton has been all wizardry and all savvy business to ensure that whatever happens under and for Zac stays with Zac. That those very good equine talent he’s been associated with him- Aethero, Thanks Forever, Classic Elegance, Brothers In Arms, Beauty Generation-stay with him.

It’s like the combination of Joao Moreira and the John Size-trained Champion’s Way. No other jockey is going to come between that threesome.

What next season promises to be is a fascinating mix of a Game Of Thrones and Blazing Saddles.

How and when the six month licenses have been issued are also interesting.

With Silvestre de Sousa certain to return during the off season in the UK along with Alexis Badel, the HKJC appears to be covering all bases.

What’s going to make things difficult for the other riders will be the scramble for, well, the scraps. There’s no nicer way of saying it.

Tony Millard, for example, who has not offered Zac Purton even one ride this season, had a very successful partnership with SDS earlier this season. There’s no reason why this bromance won’t continue.

John Size has Joao Moreira whereas John Moore, Frankie Lor, and Douglas Whyte, the only new name to the training ranks, have a choice of having those at the top of the tree ride for them- Purton, Moreira Karis Teetan and Vincent Ho who’s had a brilliant season- if they’re available.

If they’re not (available) due to various commitments, there’s the need to depend on whoever else is out there and if they and their owners believe these riders can deliver. Who might these be?

Most likely Grant van Nierke, Umberto Rispoli, Derek Leung, and…This is where things kinda drop off.

The apprentice riders, especially Jack Wong, have been going through a lean spell in the last few months. Another apprentice currently riding in Queensland-Gary Lo- is expected to join this group later on this or next season whereas Alfie Chan has not exactly set Hong Kong racing on fire despite his ten-pound allowance and being indentured to the yard of Frankie Lor.

With Martin Harley not having his license to ride in Hong Kong next season renewed, what’s the future looking like for those given six month licenses- Neil Callan, Regan Bayliss, Alberto Sanna, Aldo Domeyer and another new boy to Hong Kong in Lyle Hewitson, below, from South Africa?

With his years in Hong Kong and the connections he’s made plus all that “Iron Man” Twitter talk, it would be surprising if Neil Callan doesn’t turn around what’s been a pretty lacklustre season for him this year.

Having said this, like every other jockey, it comes down to support- and the quality of this support. There’s support and there’s also going around the mulberry bush.

Think about a leading trainer like Tony Cruz. The Putha Man is unpredictable, to say the least. He keeps mixing things up and knows that it’s not only about horses for courses, but also about how and when diversification and variety come into play.

The question is whether Tony Cruz has the horsepower other than Exultant and Time Warp, both of which are joined at the hip with the Zac Attack?

There’s the great Whyte hope and having been the champion jockey that he was, who he chooses to ride his stable stars is a relevant question.

There will be much expected from Douglas Whyte with his first runner as a trainer most likely to start at prohibitive odds.

Like any new jockey, as a former thirteen time champion Hong Kong jockey, heavy is the head that now wears the trainer’s crown. Knowing the lay of the land, one can guess who he might turn to…and also at least two riders who’ll never get a look in.

All in all, a fascinating script for next season which really should be an enthralling reality series and seeing the various twists and turns it takes.

#HKracing #HKJC #BlakeShinn #ZacPurton #JoaoMoreira #JohnMoore #horseracing #DouglasWhyte #LyleHewitson