By Hans Ebert

The last time Hong Kong racing fans saw such intense rivalry was between then-reigning champion jockey Douglas Whyte and that thorn in his side and certainly no pushover in Brett Prebble.

The fact that both of them weren’t exactly sending each other Christmas cards helped heighten the competitiveness of this horse opera with everything leading to their face off during the 2009-10 racing season.

Whether Prebble choked or Whyte managed to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat, who knows. The fact was that the Australian jockey looked to have an unassailable lead with just a handful of meetings to go only to be overhauled by an inspired rival. The final score was 100-99 in favour of the Durban Demon. It’s something still talked about today by those caught up at the time in the eye of that crossfire hurricane.

Fast forward to today and Hong Kong racing is showcasing two of the best riders in the world competing for honours and each giving as good as they get.

Last Wednesday night, The Zac Attack perfected a well-executed treble to hit the lead in the current Jockeys Premiership. For a while there, it looked as if the Brazilian Magic Man had done a Speedy Gonzales and ridden away with the title. But, slowly and surely, Zac managed to pull back the deficit.

It was a bona fide Zac Attack where he chose his rides wisely, upped the ante, sharpened his game, and exuded even more confidence than usual. Hard to believe, but true. The Zac Attack wasn’t going to play second enchilada in this show.

Perhaps seeing that oncoming train of intimidation steaming towards him, the Magic Man’s winners started to get away from him. He might have put on a brave front by mentioning the number of his horses that had been beaten into second place, but being beaten is not winning. The magic hadn’t gone Poof, but many of the bullets were firing blanks…that is until renewing their rivalry at Shatin on Sunday.

Joao looked to have a very strong book of rides and he delivered. Some hotpots fell by the wayside, but the Magic returned along with a bounty of five winners. The Zac Attack answered with a double.

If his ride on Band Of Brothers was brilliance personified, the ride by the Magic Man to absolutely steal the last aboard Shining Ace proved that while currently going through self imposed self isolation, racing and even non racing fans have something new to watch- two superb athletes at the peak of their powers and each pushing the other to perhaps go where they haven’t gone before.

What the Zac And Joao Show is providing is great theatre. It’s great television at a time when many of us are inhaling more television programming than ever before- and viewing everything we see very differently.

Horse racing in Hong Kong now has its own Pay For View television channel, but it’s free for everyone.

What’s happening regularly between Zac Purton and Joao Moreira at the racecourses in Happy Valley and Shatin should be documented. It needs a Martin Scorsese or a Netflix to present it to a wider audience.

It’s more than being “good for racing”. At a time when horse racing is the only game in this town whereas it’s started to go into lockdown mode like many other sports and events everywhere else, this shouldn’t mean pressing Pause.

As it has been doing to keep racing in Hong Kong alive and kicking, it’s a timely opportunity for the HKJC to press the Refresh button and have this pastime become part of future time by using the present to create something new in the online and terrestrial landscape and make racing more than what it is today- anywhere.

#ZacPurton #JoaoMoreira #HKracing #HKJC #horseracing #DouglasWhyte #BrettPrebble