Size has Moore in hand
Tremendous battle between the two Johns for Hong Kong training honours
Trainer John Size had a two-win lead over John Moore going into the final day of the Hong Kong 2018/19 racing season at Sha Tin on Sunday.
It had been a tremendous tussle between the two greats of Hong Kong racing and the faithfuls were anticipating a slugfest from the start.
But, when the last horse crossed the line 11 races later, Size had extended that advantage to three and, with it, he claimed his 11th title.
The Australian ended the day with 78 wins to Moore's 75, outpointing his rival two to one on the day.
His double started with Monkey Jewellery in the fourth event and the championship was signed, sealed and delivered when Aerohappiness took the seventh.
"It's a big relief when you win," said Size, after he had matched Moore's father George Moore's record of 11 championships.
"It's difficult, it's not that easy, so you just have to put your head down and keep going - do your best for every individual in the stable and you might come up with a championship."
The handler, who turned 65 last Wednesday, had predicted in the lead-up that the battle would "go to the wire" and he pointed to the fact that a couple of Moore wins early on the card would "make it difficult".
Moore struck in the opener. Size's advantage was cut to one when Above scored with champion jockey Zac Purton aboard. The fight was on, it seemed.
"Come on, John!" Purton shouted, with an accompanying fist-pump, as he returned to unsaddle.
"That's the start we wanted," said Moore, who needed that score if he was to have a chance in the championship race.
And the champion jockey himself needed it in his quest to beat Joao Moreira's Hong Kong single season record of 170 wins.
But Purton's attempt failed. Needing four wins on Sunday to match Moreira's mark, he fell two short, a double being his return, thanks to a win on Defining Moment in Race 6.
But there was no failure about his season as a whole: that was a resounding success. Purton's 168 tally is the second-highest in Hong Kong history.
The Moore nerves must have resurfaced before the afternoon reached half-way. Moreira galvanised Monkey Jewellery through a late drive to take Race 4 - and Size's two-win cushion was back.
When Aerohappiness overhauled the Moore-trained and Purton-ridden Hello Beauty to win Race 7, the championship trophy was all but sitting on Size's mantelpiece.
Indeed, any faint hope Moore still held dissolved when the Danny Shum-trained Harmony Victory landed Race 8. It took the championship out of his reach altogether.
But the seven-time champion still looked to the positives.
"It's the most winners I've ever had in a season and to fight it out with John Size was really something. We've given him a run for his money and that's not easy," said Moore.
"I'm really pleased with how the season worked out. Beauty Generation was brilliant, we have Aethero and Thanks Forever coming through too, so I'm happy. It's been a brilliant season and it's been down to great teamwork."
Sunday's turnover of HK$1.966 billion (S$340 million) was a record for the day. It pushed the season's total turnover to a new high of HK$124.8 billion, albeit by only 0.4 per cent.
Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said:
"John Size won a fantastic battle for the trainers' championship with John Moore and that definitely enticed a lot of customers to come racing - we could not have planned it better." - HKJC
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