Graham Cunningham: 'Magic Man' Moreira singing in rain after he lands four-timer
The temperature has cooled off a little in Hong Kong but Joao Moreira and Caspar Fownes turned up the heat in their respective title races with further success at Happy Valley on Wednesday.
Both men will head to Sha Tin with high hopes on Sunday, where the Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies' Purse at 8.40 is the highlight of a ten-race card.
Moreira surged ten clear of Zac Purton at the top of the jockeys' table with a brilliant four-timer at a drizzly Happy Valley on Wednesday.
The 'Magic Man' made it three for the night when the highly progressive Sky Darci defied stall 12 in the style of a smart youngster for Caspar Fownes, then signed off in the nightcap when stablemate Columbus County quickened much too well for a strong field.
Fownes felt that Columbus County "treated them with contempt and blew them away" to spark thoughts of a possible step up to Group 2 level for the Jockey Club Cup on November 22.
Stats illustrate Purton's title dilemma
Meanwhile, it's looking as if Fownes could be king in the trainers' title race for a fourth time and perhaps kingmaker in the race to be champion jockey.
Wednesday's double took Fownes six clear of Tony Cruz, Frankie Lor and Francis Lui but a deeper dive shows he is an impressive 10-33 when linking up with Moreira and only 1-9 with Purton.
The fact that Purton hasn't ridden for Fownes since September 23 is noteworthy. It suggests a once-lucrative relationship has cooled off. But it needs to warm up again if the Aussie is to reel in the Brazilian in the way he did last season and two years earlier.
Fownes feels Dragon can blow hot
Fownes is two-handed in Sunday's Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies' Purse and although last year's winner Southern Legend returns in fine form after finishing third in Golden Sixty's Sha Tin Trophy over a mile, it's hard to escape the conclusion he thinks Dances With Dragon could be his ace.
"Southern Legend doesn't know he's eight and ran enormous the other day, three wide no cover," he said. "He was gallant in defeat and will be very close."
But Dances With Dragon came home strongly for fifth two weeks ago and is ready to peak over an extra furlong, according to his trainer.
"This is his race, the one I've targeted him for all season," Fownes added. "He ran really well last up, closing off with a great sectional, and I'd say he will be very hard to beat over 1,800m getting 16lb off Exultant."
Punters face weighty concern as Exultant returns
Exultant poses punters a problem when he reappears after a lengthy summer break. Fourth and third in the last two renewals of this Group 3 handicap, he is clearly capable of going very close at his best, but will he be fully tuned up for his first run since May?
Purton feels the former Irish Guineas third is "up against It" conceding so much weight to a strong field over his minimum distance, while trainer Tony Cruz reports his stable star in good shape but sounds a note of caution by saying "this is just a lead-up" to the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup in three weeks' time.
Whatever happens on Sunday, ratings suggest Exultant is by far the best hope of keeping the Longines Hong Kong Vase at home on December 13.
The six-year-old has finished first and third in the last two runnings and has that race high on his agenda again this winter.
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