Is the Mauritian Magician the biggest winner from Hong Kong jockeys' room changes next season?
Joao Moreira's sudden change of base to Japan next season will deliver a seismic shift to the topography of the Hong Kong jockey landscape and the obvious fan plaything is the question of how.
Yes, plaything, because the supply and demand for jockeys in Hong Kong is notoriously fast-changing at the best of times and predicting those tides is treacherous, so it's more of a ball to toss around than a declaration, but it's one with which racing fans will be engaged already.
Now you're going to see the departure of not only the most in-demand rider - Moreira's 580 rides this season puts him 23 ahead of the next most in-demand rider, Zac Purton - but also the absence of Nash Rawiller, Tommy Berry, Brett Prebble and Olivier Doleuze. Between them all, that's 1,856 rides this season which need to find new jockeys, 1,087 of them horses well in the market.
Purton becomes the clear standout rider, in a way that he has never before experienced in his entire career, and will no longer be able to play the underdog card that has served him so well.
He will have more offers every race, more of a spotlight on his choices and performances - in short, more pressure. I suspect none of that will faze the cocky Aussie too much - although he is already getting a small taste of it, shaking his head at just how short the odds have been lately for some of his rides - but no matter how much more attention is on Purton, he still cannot ride many more horses than he is riding now and he will always be constrained by his weight.
So where do those rides go from the jockeys who are leaving, and especially those from Moreira?
As I said, stable-rider relationships are in constant flux but the most likely connections are still those already established.
So here are the sources of Moreira's rides this season (a season in which he lost to Purton a lot of support from the stables of Caspar Fownes, Danny Shum and Dennis Yip, so this graph would certainly look different from a graph of the previous season's mounts.) The blue column shows total rides, the yellow those rides considered winning chances - in Moreira's case, that is always a very high percentage.
The biggest question is where John Size's rides go, which we'll get to in a moment, but Moreira's next two biggest providers, Chris So and star freshman Frankie Lor, are of interest. Lor particularly, as he looks like running a convincing second to his old boss Size this season and there will be some fancy his chances of improving to be a serious title threat.
Lor's main jockey - in terms of rides - has actually been Karis Teetan, ahead of Derek Leung and Purton, and Teetan also ranks second to Moreira for wins for Lor's yard.
So's main jockey has been Brett Prebble, who is also departing, just ahead of Moreira and then his next five most-used jockeys have been locals, headed by Jack Wong and Derek Leung.
So Teetan and Leung look to be winners in terms of getting a bigger piece of the riding from Lor and So.
Now back to Size, who is often said to "make" the champion jockey in Hong Kong, not just by providing winners but by denying them to the rival of his stable favourite. It happened throughout his long partnership with Douglas Whyte - just a few crumbs Prebble's way in one or two of those epic battles he and Whyte staged would have swung the result, but that isn't Size's way.
With his main jockey, Moreira, rampant last season and his title never in any danger, Size sent 31 rides and 10 wins Purton's way but, in a much tighter contest this season, that avenue has dried up.
Purton has won 4 races from 11 rides for Size, most of them Hot King Prawn.
Here is the graph of stable riders for Size this season and the thing that stands out very readily is that his first 3 preferences, Moreira, Prebble and Olivier Doleuze will all be missing next season, as will Nash Rawiller, his eighth pick now but ranking even higher before his disqualification.
So that begs the question - with all those riders gone, who will get the weight of Size's stable behind them next season? Will he simply throw the colours up in the air and spread the rides? Will he elect to back the new standout champion - with whom he has always had a hot-cold relationship even as Purton came through the ranks - or will Size throw his influence behind a new contender? If he is truly the kingmaker, that decision will be a serious boost for the jockey he annoints.
The X-factor in all of this is Ryan Moore. It won't be any surprise if we see the British champion jockey in Hong Kong for the winter months as he will command fantastic rides across the board as the logical alternative to Purton with Moreira gone, but he also has a strong relationship with Size, which would likely see him with first choice status in that yard. Those are attractive incentives but, of course, Moore has commitments at home which will severely limit any part he can play in the season as a whole and he does not ride light either.
So here is the same graphic of Size's riders this season, but without the riders who won't be here in 2018-19.
In this scenario, Sam Clipperton and Karis Teetan have been Size's main riders, so they probably stand to be major beneficiaries of the departures - and Teetan has an edge in his bodyweight.
Before Moreira appeared on the scene, back in the Whyte-Size Dream team era, Teetan already did a lot of Size's lightweight riding.
As Moreira had no trouble riding those light ones too, he supplanted Teetan, who has had to mostly find support elsewhere but might make a comeback now.
As we saw earlier, Teetan also looks likely to pick up more support from Frankie Lor in Moreira's absence, so could the Brazilian's exit be the moment that elevates the Mauritian?