In the race for the 2019-20 champion jockey title in Hong Kong, Joao Moreira (23 wins) has taken a clear early lead over reigning champion Zac Purton (17 wins).

But there’s a lot of racing still to come, and Purton can gain back some ground on Wednesday, October 16, when Happy Valley hosts an eight-race evening card starting at 7:15 a.m. (EDT). On paper, Purton has a few live mounts, and we’ll feature two of them for this week’s spot plays:

Race 2: Plover Cove Handicap (Class 4)

#1 Best Smile is the 133-pound highweight and the horse to beat in this 1,000-meter turf dash. The son of Kodiac debuted with a runner-up effort over this course, class, and distance on July 10, setting a quick pace before weakening only slightly to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind Aquila. The latter wasn’t disgraced when returning to finish a close fourth at the Class 3 level.

Best Smile returned to action in another Class 4, 1,000-meter sprint on September 11 and overcame a slight stumble at the start to press the pace, take command, and finish second by a neck against the late-charging Hardly Swears, an improving runner with a 2-for-3 record.

On Wednesday, Best Smile will stick to the Class 4 level while once again negotiating 1,000 meters at Happy Valley. This isn’t the toughest field, and he’s drawn well in post 6 with Purton in the saddle. Will the third time be the charm for Best Smile? I’m willing to bet yes.

The veteran #2 Look Eras finished just a neck behind Best Smile when third in the latter’s debut, and while he faded badly in the September 11 sprint won by Hardly Swears, there’s a chance Look Eras will improve in his second start of the 2019-20 racing season. Joao Moreira picks up the mount and will try to snatch a victory from Purton.

Let’s key these two in the trifecta while also betting Best Smile to win:

$13 to win on #1 Best Smile
$1.3 trifecta: 1,2 with 1,2 with 6,7,10 ($7.8)
$1.3 trifecta: 1,2 with 6,7,10 with 1,2 ($7.8)
$1.3 trifecta: 6,7,10 with 1,2 with 1,2 ($7.8)

Race 5: The American Club Challenge Cup (Class 3)

#2 Tashidelek has been a very capable Class 3 performer and just missed over this course and 1,800-meter distance on July 10, rallying to fall a half-length short of catching True Grit, who was winning his fifth consecutive race.

Tashidelek could only finish ninth in his 2019-20 debut, but that was a 1,400-meter sprint at Sha Tin, and Tashidelek arguably outran expectations by rallying to finish just four lengths behind the winner. With this sharpener under his belt, Tashidelek should be poised for a big step forward while stretching back out to 1,800 meters, a much more suitable distance. Zac Purton, who has been aboard for two of Tashidelek’s best runs, will return to the saddle for acclaimed trainer John Moore.

We’ll bet Tashidelek to win and key him in the quinella with #4 Ziang Bai Qi, runner-up behind True Grit on July 10, and #9 Crown Avenue, who boasts a 5-for-14 record running 1,800 meters.

$13 to win on #2 Tashidelek
$5.2 quinella: 2 with 4,9 ($10.4)

Good luck!

Find weekly Hong Kong spot plays from J. Keeler Johnson

Happy Valley photo (c) Vance Hanson