Joao Moreira’s likely return to Hong Kong’s racing scene doesn’t have reigning champion hoop Zac Purton worried.
Normal service has resumed for the two-time HK championship rider Purton this season, banking 17 winners so far to top the rankings – from Karis Teetan (16) and Vincent Ho (11) – minus the presence of three-time champion Moreira.
However, the Brazilian superstar’s bid to gain a licence to ride in Japan hit a stumbling block, and according to reports, he is set to return to Hong Kong as stable rider for John Size.
“The jockeys are obviously not very happy he’s coming back. We finally got rid of him!” Purton joked on After The Last.
He added: “It’s just a matter of getting a rubber-stamp there, I can’t see why they’re not going to allow him to come back, especially as stable rider for Size.
“Him coming back for Size I don’t think is a bad thing. It’s not a stable I ride for on that much of a regular basis, although I have picked up most of the rides there – all the winners John’s had this season I’ve ridden.
“But by committing himself to Size’s stable, it’s going to mean he is tied down a little bit and not able to take as many outside rides as what he did previously, so it might be a bit more of a level playing field.”
Purton is booked to ride the Ed Dunlop-trained Red Verdon in Saturday’s $5.15million Stella Artois Caulfield Cup, the Australian superstar looking to double his Caulfield Cup tally after having success aboard Admire Rakti in 2014.
He’s confident Red Verdon has enough tactical versatility to handle most tempos, and most conditions.
“He’s good at the distance, he’s a very consistent horse, he can run on all types of ground,” Purton said.
“It’s hard to say where he’s going to be in the run on the weekend, because in some races in the UK he’s raced handy in slowly run races, and other times he got quite far back in the field, so it’s difficult to say where he’ll be.
“He’s a bit versatile in his racing manner – it’s just going to depend on the speed of the race and how it unfolds.”
Purton confirmed he’s booked for Red Verdon in the $7.3million Lexus Melbourne Cup too, in which Red Verdon is also set to carry 54kg – his Caulfield Cup allotted weight – at this stage.
And Purton said he’s not in a race against time to waste this week.
“My weight’s been pretty good. I came back probably a little bit heavier than what I have the last couple of off-seasons, this season,” he added.
“But I worked very hard to get my weight down, I changed a couple of little things with my diet, and it seems to have worked.
“The weight’s come off me, I feel fit, I feel good, I’m riding the same weight (Wednesday) night [at Happy Valley], so it’s just a matter of maintaining that into Saturday.”