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Keagan de Melo’s polished win at Happy Valley on Wednesday (HKJC)

Keagan de Melo scored his third win in Hong Kong at Happy Valley on Wednesday, while Hugh Bowman followed his four-timer at Sha Tin on Sunday with another winner.

Zac Purton scored a rare blank despite riding in all nine of the races at the Happy Valley meeting and Hugh Bowman remained on top of the log with 18 wins to Purton’s 16.

De Melo finished a narrow second on a 10/1 shot in the 6th race but he quickly put that behind him by winning his next ride in the 8th race on the David Hall-trained Never Too Soon, who paid 7.30 on the Tote.

From draw two in the class 3 event over 1200m, the six-year-old gelding by Written Tycoon was outpaced early but this allowed De Melo to secure the rail in midfield. He niggled the horse along and he began travelling supremely well as they entered the turn while others were starting to feel the pinch.

De Melo found a run towards the inside and his horse stretched out nicley in the closing stages to win by a length.

His three wins is just two behind fellow countryman Lyle Hewitson and is just one behind the other South African jockey on the island Luke Ferraris.

In 47 rides De Melo has also had four seconds, three thirds, seven fourths and six fifths for earnings of HK$5,259,600 (R12,780,828). His earnings in SA last season in which he was champion jockey with 277 wins was R31,372,569.

Among Bowman’s four winners on Sunday was the Tony Cruz-trained California Spangle in the Group 2 The Sha Tin Trophy Handicap.

Cruz began his post-race interview by pointing out Zac Purton had had the choice to ride California Spangle but did not take it. Instead he opted for the John Size-trained Beauty Eternal. who received 12 pounds from California Spangle yet was still beaten into third by 1,5 lengths.

Cruz continued, “He made the wrong decision, but anyway, Hugh Bowman is going to stick with the horse for his next run, the [Group Two Jockey Club Mile], and then the [Group One Hong Kong Mile]. Bowman will be riding the horse all the time. [Bowman is a] top-class jockey. He made the problem look pretty simple [to solve]. He showed his class, the horse, and [Bowman] rode a perfect race.”

Bowman is quickly becoming the new protagonist in what could well become Hong Kong racing’s latest fierce rivalry.