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Graham Cunningham: Moreira facing uphill struggle as title race nears conclusion

Sha Tin: racing on Wednesday
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Hong Kong action switches to an earlier slot and different venue this Wednesday for a Sha Tin public holiday card that marks the 1997 handover of HK sovereignty from the UK to China.

Zac Purton is is no mood to hand over his jockeys' title to Joao Moreira with just five meetings left, while Ricky Yiu is being pushed hard by Francis Lui and Tony Cruz as he chases a first trainers' title.

All the action from a ten-race card will be live on Sky Sports Racing starting from 6am and running through until 10.50.

Moreira still facing uphill struggle

Joao Moreira outscored Zac Purton 2-1 at Sha Tin on Saturday but will need to up the pace further to keep his chances of a fourth championship alive.

The Brazilian trails Purton 137-131 with five meetings left but misses the Happy Valley meeting on July 8 due to suspension and his current frustrations were summed up by a luckless passage on Beauty Applause in Saturday's finale.

John Size's gelding passed the post in fifth behind Water Diviner, staying on strongly despite finding no luck after a tardy start, and gave the impression he would have gone very close with better luck.

The flashy chestnut has clearly returned from a break as good as ever and could get a chance to make amends if he bounces back for a similar event at Sha Tin's closing fixture on July 12.

Yiu maintains slender lead in three-way title battle

Water Diviner's late charge proved a real tonic for Jack Wong – saluting for the first time since sustaining rib and foot injuries in a Happy Valley fall in April – and also capped another dramatic day in a three-way race for the trainers' title.

Francis Lui moved within one of Ricky Yiu when Winston's Lad scored, Tony Cruz moved within three when Party Everyday won, Yiu struck back when Alcari popped up at 26-1 in the penultimate contest, and Lui reduced Yiu's lead to one again when Water Diviner landed the nightcap at 43-1.

Yiu and Lui are trying to maintain business as usual but, given that both are chasing a first title having been training since the mid 1990's, their desire to seize a chance that may never come again is understandable.

"Every single win counts heavily," said Yiu. "I'll keep my head down then there's no regret.

Lui summed up his situation by saying: "I don't have much left but the horses are in form."

Magic Man return a plus for Righteous

Purton and Moreira are on duty in all ten races on Wednesday's card with an intriguing rematch between Righteous Doctrine and Columbus County as one of the highlights in the featured Hong Kong Reunification Cup at 9.40.

This pair came home strongly when fourth and fifth in a muddling race at Happy Valley recently but a truly-run race at Sha Tin should suit both well.

Purton feels a return to the big track is a positive and describes Columbus County as "an honest horse who has always been thereabouts," while trainer Michael Chang feels stable star Righteous Doctrine is finally confirming the promise he showed when beaten just four lengths in the French Guineas two years ago.

On paper there's little to choose between the pair – and it doesn't end there in a strong £220,000 handicap – but Righteous Doctrine makes most appeal.

The five-year-old has a strong turn of foot, which he deployed to perfection over course and distance in May, and the fact that Moreira gets on extremely well with him is another significant plus.

Experience the key to Dreamer's prospects

It's one thing for a promising youngster to make a winning debut in Class 4 company over 1000m and another to follow up from a much higher mark when the heat is on against hardened Class 3 sprinters.

Such is the task facing Frankie Lor's Winning Dreamer in Wednesday's Better Future 1000m Handicap at 10.50 and the for and against cases are clear enough.

On the plus side, Winning Dreamer justified his trial promise in style under Vincent Ho on his first day at the races, easing clear and clocking an impressive 22.1s closing split despite looking unsure of exactly what was being asked.

Another trial win since ought to have helped and Lor feels his latest young prospect "could be a Group horse." A mark of 62 should be very manageable if that's the case but this is a much deeper pool and Moreira and the admirably consistent War Of Courage won't be slow to capitalise if Winning Dreamer shows any immaturity.

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Joao Moreira outscored Zac Purton 2-1 at Sha Tin on Saturday but will need to up the pace further to keep his chances of a fourth championship alive
E.W. Terms