Jockeys’ championship protagonists Zac Purton and Joao Moreira have continued to trade blows in recent weeks and that looks set to continue on Sunday’s (19 April) 10-race Sha Tin card, with their rivalry highlighted in the clash of rising youngsters Mighty Giant (132lb) and Juneau Park (119lb).
The exciting gallopers take each other on in the Class 3 Dorset Handicap (1400m) and watchers will be hoping for a contest like the Happy Valley finale on Wednesday night.
That race saw the two outstanding riders locked in a thrilling duel, with Purton gaining a narrow win to seal a treble and so reduce Moreira’s championship lead to one.
Purton rides Mighty Giant, the Ricky Yiu trainee who is looking to secure a third consecutive win.
“He’s a lovely horse, he’s got a big long action and he loves to gallop along – there’s a lot to like about him,” Purton said.
The New Zealand-bred gelding has enjoyed a rapid rise as a three-time winner from only six career starts, incurring a 26-point rating hike since his debut.
“He’s done nothing wrong – he’s continued to improve as he’s gone along,” Purton said.
“He’s been winning nicely and he’s a good honest horse who gives everything and I’m sure he’ll do that again.”
Championship leading trainer Ricky Yiu has been delighted with Mighty Giant’s progress.
“He’s only a four-year-old, he keeps maturing and improving – he’s a horse who always likes to please you,” Yiu said.
The Power gelding arrived in Hong Kong as an unraced PPG (Privately Purchased Griffin).
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get out to a mile but at this stage we’ll keep him at 1400 (metres), however, moving forward we’ll see,” Yiu said.
Mighty Giant will break from gate four in search of a third consecutive win but Purton sees a big challenge coming from Moreira’s mount Juneau Park who will start from stall six.
“At the weights, Juneau Park is going to get his chance – my bloke likes to roll along so he’s going to have his chance to sit on my back to try and run me down,” Purton said. “I think Juneau Park looks one-paced so it’s going to suit him as well.”
Juneau Park will carry 13lb less than Mighty Giant as he seeks to complete a hat-trick at his first start above Class 4. The Ocean Park gelding has two wins from five starts with two other top two since his debut in January.
“He’s up to Class 3 now but with the lighter weight he’s probably going to appreciate that and we’re going to find out if he really is going as well as we think he is,” Moreira said.
“He’s a horse that has a lot of potential, he’s still improving and in my opinion he’s far from where he’s going to get to in the ratings – we might see the best of him when he starts stepping out over further.”
Both gelding’s hulk around at over 1200lb; Juneau Park tips the scales at 1278lb last start, 234lb heavier than the smallest horse in the race.
“He has natural gate speed even if he is quite heavy, because he can react quite quickly from the gates, which doesn’t tend to happen with big horses as they feel the weight when they jump forward,” Moreira said.
Trainer John Size said: “He always showed some promise, he’s a big boy, he’s pretty heavy for a thoroughbred but he seems to be coping with that. He’s honest, he tries hard, he’s very happy to fight out a finish – he doesn’t shirk the task and he’s going to win another race.”