Luke Middlebrook: Hong Kong racing returns to Sha Tin on Sunday for an action-packed day of Group racing along with highly-anticipated running of the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile.
The first of the feature races comes up in Race 5 with the running of the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup over 1200m, which is billed as trainer John Size’s sole runner Hot King Prawn’s best chance at landing that elusive Group 1 victory.
Hot King Prawn’s best showings in G1s occurred throughout the 2019/20 season, finishing second to stablemate Beat The Clock in the Hong Kong Sprint before going on to check home third in both this race and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup over 1400m).
Last seen finishing seventh as the 11-10 favourite in the Hong Kong Sprint in mid-December, Hot King Prawn’s run was probably one of the toughest as he faired best of the on-pace runners in what was a hot run race to suit backmarkers.
Only 1.50 lengths separated first to seventh, which pretty much tells you all there is to know: Hong Kong’s current sprinting ranks is an extremely even bunch and the result often comes down to barrier, race shape and luck in running.
Jockey Matthew Chadwick will jump back aboard the Tony Cruz-trained Computer Patch after his failure as an odds-on favourite down the straight 1000m last time, and this column would have to agree with his assessment in that his best performances have been when he is ridden quieter than his usual on-pace position.
“The best feeling he has given me in his career is when he was ridden patiently and he was able to find his feet and he sprinted home really well,” Chadwick told the SCMP Racing Post.
The next Group 1 comes up in Race 7 with the running of the Stewards’ Cup, which sees local superstar Golden Sixty aim for 12-straight wins and his 15th career win from 16 starts.
It should be a walk another walk in the park for Golden Sixty with none of the locals good enough to outsprint him. The only interesting remark is that he goes head-to-head with the Fownes-trained Rise High for the first time in his career.
Meanwhile, leading jockey Joao Moreira’s choice to ride Sky Darci in the Hong Kong Classic Mile will be put to the test as the aspiring Derby runners do battle.
Moreira has partnered the Caspar Fownes-trained galloper to three wins and a G3 second this season and he was not shy in voicing his opinion that he believes he is the clear stand-out in the Classic Mile after the much-improved type claimed a strong Class 1 1600m race two starts ago.
Moreira picked the ride after partnering a slew of other four-year-olds in the process, including stablemate Enrich Delight and the John Size-trained Excellent Proposal.
Belgian star Christophe Soumillon stays aboard Enrich Delight after finishing third in his last start while Blake Shin picks up the ride on Excellent Proposal. Zac Purton rides the highly-touted Shadow Hero from the David Hayes camp and Karis Teetan partners Size trainee Lucky Express.
Race 1: Winner Method newcomer who looks talented and must be rated a good chance having drawn close to rails in barrier 11 with Purton in the saddle. Sell My Sole resuming from a break and trialled well recently. Has experience on his side and has shown enough ability to win this. California Gungho down in class in this race and should perform better. Will try to lead all the way. Noble Desire well-placed and looks a chance in race like this. Bella Baby well supported last start and won accordingly – albeit it in Class 5 – but remains a chance again.
Race 2: Family Leader looks the one to beat based on current form with Moreira/Fownes combining but it’s the type of race where there’s a few who could surprise. Bundle Of Delight should be highly suited by the drop back in distance and he looks to secure the gun run from barrier 2. Smart Cousin was an easy last start winner and must be respected. The stable’s poor record of back-to-back wins is of some concern however. Rainbow Light ran the second fastest sectional time last start and is improving. Cheerful Star blinkers have been added and can surprise.
Race 3: Master Hero nice effort last start when storming home into third, appears ready to win and Moreira rides him over impressive last start winner Fortune Master, who must be respected on that performance and should have a top chance to repeat the dose despite Moreira jumping off. Charity Grace last start winner who retains good form and can run well again but barrier 14 is awkward. Golden Four generally gets back in the running but dashes strongly home. Ultimate Glory old-timer who is always capable of surprising.
Race 4: Juneau Park last start winner who retains good form and can run well again having drawn well in barrier 3. Holds form with a strong trial and Size’s stable is in red-hot form currently. Flagship Glory newcomer who has trialled well for debut and he looks to have promise. Barrier 13 is tough on debut but the ‘Magic Man’ Moreira rides first-up. Sea Of Life was an easy last start winner and must be respected. Beluga video replay showed last run was very good and keep safe. Craig’s Star recent runs have been encouraging and can run well.
Race 5: Hot King Prawn will find this easier than last start and his run in the G1 Hong Kong Sprint was the best of the locals, sticking on in what was a fast run race. Maps ideally from barrier 2. Computer Patch every chance last start but still ran a good race and chances will improve ridden quieter here. Wishful Thinker nice effort last start when storming home, appears ready to win again. Voyage Warrior faded late last start, chance to improve under right race shape. Fat Turtle simply had no luck last start and overlook the run (read “Track Spy” for more information).
Race 6: Blastoise had genuine excuses last start and can improve in this race with Purton taking the ride and jumping from barrier 1. Big chance to bounce back. Natural Storm nice horse who is a model of consistency and looks a solid winning chance. Entrusted improving type and getting close to a win and is a great each-way shout. Happy My Brother had betting support last start and where there is smoke there is fire – improving all the time. Enrichment last run was better than it reads and do not dismiss (read “Track Spy” for more information).
Race 7: Golden Sixty Hong Kong’s best horse who is undoubtedly the one to beat. More records beckon and he should be taking care of these with ease as he aims for 12-straight wins. Rise High talented galloper who is resuming from a break and Golden Sixty is yet to face off with this Fownes-trained gelding. Waikuku can improve second-up from a break after his solid fourth in the Hong Kong Mile. South- ern Legend genuine old-timer who is racing in good form and can run well again. Ka Ying Star video replay showed last run was very good after excuses in running and Purton riding is a big plus.
Race 8: First leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series with Moreira choosing the Fownes-trained Sky Darci, who looks the one to beat based on current form after his solid Class 1 1600m win two starts ago. Stable mate Enrich Delight appears the main danger to Sky Darci, after his impressive debut win and a good third last time out. Tourbillon Diamond highly promising galloper who scored smartly second-up and has settled into Hong Kong racing with ease. Shadow Hero improving type and getting close to a win and should be included in wider exotic bets. Lucky Express racing consistently of late and boasts a neck margin second to Sky Darci two starts ago, which bodes well here.
Race 9: Packing Waltham improving type and getting close to a win. Should improve sharply coming into barrier 3 from 14. Panfield had genuine excuses last start when badly held up at a crucial stage in the race (read “Track Spy” for more information). Charity Go well sup- ported last start and won accordingly. Should be there fighting out the finish yet again. Helene Leadingstar video replay showed last run was very good but will need some luck from stall 12. Reliable Team a fast beginner who can run well if he finds an easy lead.
Race 10: Sight Success very smart four-year-old who remains unbeaten to date (two-from-two) and will go close again. Master Montaro had excuses when not suited by a slow early speed last start but closed off the best to make up the most ground late (read “Track Spy” for more information). Winning For All last start winner who retains good form and can run well again. Big Fortune nice horse who is a model of consistency and looks a good chance again. Excellent Chariot rising in class and meets better quality horses but can measure up.