Brenton Avdulla’s dazzling form has lifted him into the coveted final International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) spot and on Wednesday night the 32-year-old is aiming to seal his place with six mounts before the roster is finalised.
The line-up is confirmed after tomorrow night’s eight-race fixture with three positions still open. Zac Purton, who leads the 2023/24 Hong Kong jockeys’ championship with 31 wins, features as Hong Kong’s current champion; two places remain for the next highest-ranked riders and one is available for the leading homegrown jockey.
Karis Teetan (18 wins) fills the first spot in the injured Hugh Bowman’s (21) stead, while Vincent Ho’s four-win lead – 11 wins to seven – over Matthew Chadwick sees him hold the homegrown rider’s ticket (Angus Chung, 17 wins, is ineligible as an apprentice), leaving Avdulla (10), Lyle Hewitson (10), Andrea Atzeni (10) and Luke Ferraris (nine) all vying for the final position in the 12-rider competition.
“Hugh is indisposed, so it’s a position now that’s afforded to someone else and if we can make the most of it on Wednesday night and grab that position – it’ll be an honour,” Avdulla said.
Avdulla has nine wins from the last nine race meetings, while Sunday’s four-timer at Sha Tin pushed him into the final spot, which he holds on a countback with the most second placings over Hewitson and Atzeni.
“Massive result. It was the first time I went to the races on a Sunday with that sort of book, a strong book of rides and I was able to capitalise on it. Hong Kong, we all know it’s about opportunities and trying to make the most of them,” Avdulla said.
The overseas riders competing at the IJC on December 6 at Happy Valley are James McDonald, Ryan Moore, Yuga Kawada, Hollie Doyle, Tom Marquand, Bauyrzhan Murzabayev, Rachel King and Mickael Barzalona. The 12 jockeys will ride for HK$1 million, with the winner of the competition taking home HK$600,000.
Two of Avdulla’s quartet came in tandem with John Size last weekend. He rides Savvy Delight for the trainer from barrier three tomorrow.
“He seems to run to his mark the majority of his time there (at Happy Valley). He’s racing really well, he’s struggled to get another win on the board but he’s getting awfully close and the few times I’ve ridden him he’s loomed up and just fallen short, so hopefully tomorrow night he can get the job done,” Avdulla said.
The Australian also partners Fire Ball, Fortune Master, Kyrus Unicorn, Maldives and Giddy Up at the city circuit.
After nearly two years of waiting, Zoom Boom finally got a first win last start and trainer Douglas Whyte believes the lightly-raced five-year-old can further ascend the ranks when he lines up at Happy Valley
Zoom Boom made his Hong Kong debut in 2022. The Irish-bred was limited to just four runs through the 2021/22 season, while he didn’t feature in 2022/23 after suffering a tendon injury two weeks prior to being gelded at the end of April, 2022.
“It’s been a long journey and I have to be very thankful to the owner for their patience.
“I took a bit of gamble bringing him back in distance and freshening him up. Obviously, the claim helped, but having said that he looked like he was in trouble – getting held up but he really hit the line strong. The light weight and a Class 3 tempo, it’s going to suit him,” Whyte said.
The handler also saddles the last-start winning Durham Star with Zac Purton engaged.
“There was a bit of speed on, he had a nice run in the race and he came out at the right time. It was good to see, hopefully he’s taken some confidence out of that and Douglas has him racing really well this season,” Purton said.
Whyte indicated that Russian Emperor remains on track for his Hong Kong International Races assignment on December 10 at Sha Tin after finishing eighth in Sunday’s Group 2 Jockey Club Cup (2000m) behind Straight Arron.
“He kind of looked like he got into a boxing match early with Straight Arron and then he was posted three-deep for most of the journey and he got cover but by the time he got cover the race became a sprint.
“He changed his leg too early for me and (jockey) Matthew (Chadwick) said he accelerated into the race but he just couldn’t sprint, which I know he can’t – I was quite happy with the way that he stayed on,” Whyte said.