Joao Moreira takes the Australian Turf Club Trophy on Zero Hedge.
©Hong Kong Jockey Club
Zero Hedge made all to land the Australian Turf Club Trophy Handicap (1200m) for the John Size/Joao Moreira alliance at Happy Valley Racecourse tonight, Wednesday, 4 July.
That win for Moreira was a required riposte to rival Zac Purton’s score in the evening’s opener and ensured that the defending champion remained within three wins of the premiership leader with three meetings remaining.
The Brazilian star was quick to heap praise on soon-to-be 10-time champion trainer Size, who took his own season’s tally to 87 after completing a double initiated when the Karis Teetan-ridden Noble Delight took race four.
“John Size, we know, is a great trainer, he has been doing so well and once again he had this horse spot on – it makes a jockey’s life easier!” Moreira said after steering the four-year-old to a two-length victory at odds of 2.4.
That was the rider’s third win from six rides on the Medaglia D’Oro gelding.
“He does nothing wrong, he’s a pretty straightforward horse,” he said. “Today he had a beautiful run in front. The other horse came and gave him a challenge but when we straightened up he was full of himself and just ran away.”
Purton, meanwhile, enjoyed an uncomplicated score in the Class 5 opener thanks to 6.5 shot Actuariat, trained by long-time ally Paul O’Sullivan. With one win apiece, the Australian led Moreira 129-126 at the end of the night.
While the premiership’s top two are engaged in a fascinating duel, a little way down the order, Derek Leung and Matthew Poon are locked in a battle of their own for the Tony Cruz Award, presented to the season’s top homegrown Hong Kong rider. Leung took the prize last term but faces a tough scrap to claim the title again with Poon pushing hard in pursuit.
The latter closed the gap between the pair to two wins when driving the Derek Cruz-trained Good Companion to victory in race three, section two of the Class 4 Carnation Handicap (1200m), for his 33rd score this term. But Leung hit back, regaining a three-win cushion over the apprentice when urging Brazilian G1 winner Salto Olimpico, a 16/1 chance, to a hard-fought success in the Class 4 Galdiolus Handicap (1800m).
“The Tony Cruz Award is important to me,” Leung said. “It’s a good reward for me and for the trainers and owners who have supported me, so I want to win it again. Matthew is pushing me and it’s good to have this competition with him, it keeps us more focused and hungry.”
Matthew Chadwick has had to dig in through a tougher-than-usual campaign and arrived at the Valley with only two mounts tonight as he tried to add to this season’s tally of 17. The former star apprentice made the first count, punching Sparkling Sword to a half-length triumph in the Class 4 Camellia Handicap (1650m).
Apprentice Victor Wong landed his 13th win this term when the Me Tsui-trained Thunder Stomp landed the penultimate contest, the Class 3 Lotus Handicap (1650m).
Whyte gets a rare tune from Limitless
Limitless arrived in Hong Kong as a winner of the 2016 Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot and with hopes high that he would develop into a top-class galloper. But an impressive second-up win under Silvestre de Sousa at Sha Tin in February, 2017 was all the mercurial bay had to show from 16 starts heading into this evening’s closer, the Class 2 Waratah handicap (1650m).
Nine jockeys had sat on the bay’s back in race mode before Douglas Whyte took the reins last time out. After that one pairing, the 13-time Hong Kong champion had gauged enough to figure out a winning game plan.
“I rode him last time and got a feel for him, he settled beautifully,” he said. “He wins the start but he’s his own worst enemy then because he wants to get going. I learnt from last time, I had to get him in behind straight away.”
Whyte did just that tonight, camping three back on the rail as Calculation set the tempo up ahead.
“I was able to actually niggle him forward and slot in and he just went to sleep for me, it was beautiful,” Whyte said. “Turning for home, I had too much horse, he was climbing all over them but I do think he appreciates this track because it’s all turn, turn, turn and he forgets about pulling. The day he won for Silvestre he flashed up the rail and I did the same. I hugged the rail, went around one horse at the 200 (metres) and that was game over.”
Whyte is hopeful that the Caspar Fownes-trained five-year-old might yet deliver on at least some of his undoubted potential.
“He felt like a proper horse,” he said. “He always looked like he had a lot of ability and he just hasn’t delivered. He’s been disappointing, but when you get a feel of him like that, there’s a lot of upside if they can get him mentally right.”
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, 8 July.