It’s not the way one needs to be reminded how much he is missed when he’s not riding. But it happened at Happy Valley Racecourse last night.

This was when, after winning the first race on Red Majesty, it was announced that Zac Purton would not be able to fulfil the rest of his riding engagements because of a back spasm problem. It was something many didn’t wish to hear.

Of course for those who follow racing religiously and knowing that Zac was to ride the night’s raging favourite Spontaneous in the seventh race, the news was a massive body blow.

Ridden by substitute jockey Vagnar Borges, the $2.2 favourite looked a little bit wobbly after seemingly cruising to another win and finished unplaced.

What happened? No idea. Maybe it was a bridge too far? Perhaps it was just a lack of spontaneity? Maybe the galloper missed having Zac on his back?

One had to feel for substitute jockey Borges. The young Brazilian rider- the only one available yesterday to ride at the allocated weight of 125 pounds- has been hammered recently with suspensions and warnings for a couple of less than perfect rides. A win on Spontaneous might have somewhat helped to redeem himself with the Stipendiary Stewards and racing fans. This was not to be.

As for wagering on last night’s races, especially if exotic bets like the Six Up and the Jockeys Challenge had been placed earlier and with the Zac Attack factored in, one just knew they had kissed their “hard-earned” goodbye.

Another thing: Whether this was just a simple twist of fate or not, none of the rides for which Purton had been booked, even ran a place, let alone win for their substitute riders.

Betting aside and despite the quintet of winners last night from Joao Moreira, these will, sadly, not be appreciated as much as they should be as his main competitor wasn’t there.

For the casual television viewer of horse racing, not having Moreira and Purton competing against each other was a signal to switch to something like a cooking channel and try to learn how to make a cherry flambé. Or at least learn how to spell it.

The point is that when it comes to horse racing in Hong Kong, the Zac Attack-Magic Man double bill is the hottest ticket in town.

Without one, there’s the other, but no matter how good they are, it becomes a one-man show. And this is about as exciting as the sound of one hand clapping.

Racing thrives on competition. It brings out the best in everyone. It also creates a level of interest that might otherwise not be there.

Of course, there’s nothing one can do about Zac Purton having to bow out. He’s a fierce competitor who absolutely thrives on being right in the middle of the fray. So does Joao Moreira. They bring out the best in each other.

Yesterday’s racing? Though good to see “Darth” Ferraris train a rare double, it was a humdrum affair and not worth agonising about. Roll on Sunday at Shatin.

Let’s also hope we see these two magnificent athletes fully fit, giving their best again, competing for honours on thousand pound beasts and never giving each other an inch.

In the meantime, get well soon, Zac.

#zacpurton #joaomoreira #hkracing #competition #ittakestwototango