Luke Middlebrook – Hong Kong racing returns for the first meeting of the 2021/22 season at Sha Tin on Sunday, and what a card it is.
As usual for the first meeting back, it sees the running of the Class 1 Handicap, the Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap (1200m).
That raced sees impressive debut winner NABOO ATTACK return and he can pick up where he left off after setting the turf alight in his first Hong Kong start.
Known as Command’N’Conquer in Australia, where he was a five-time winner from seven starts, NABOO ATTACK achieved the rare feat of winning in Class 2 on his Hong Kong debut. On that occasion in late May, NABOO ATTACK travelled strongly in midfield before letting down swiftly in the straight to round up his rivals inside the 150m and to draw clear by 1.25 lengths with plenty in hand.
Such was the win that trainer David Hayes intimated: “I think he is the best horse in the stable – to do that today, I think he’s just got a lot of upside.”
NABOO ATTACK returns to the scene on the back of two sound barrier trials, his most recent the more impressive in which jockey Karis Teetan looked to have a hard time pulling him up past the post. At the bottom of the handicap in this week’s race, NABOO ATTACK looks the one they all have to hold out.
Maybe the most interesting runner on the day, however, is Hayes’ four-year-old debutant NERVOUS WITNESS in the Class 4 1000m Handicap (Race 6).
NERVOUS WITNESS was sent to Hong Kong after scorching an 850m barrier trial in Australia, in which he gapped his rivals by five lengths and in good time relative to the morning’s heats.
Owned by the same connections as the great SILENT WITNESS, NERVOUS WITNESS might just be their next horse to reach the top. His three local trials have all been above average and he looks ready to win first-up for Hayes and with Zac Purton in the saddle.
Meanwhile, Purton can continue his good association with trainer Danny Shum when they combine with four-year-old PACKING VICTORY in the Class 4 1200m Handicap (Race 3).
PACKING VICTORY did everything right in his first race start over 1200m at Happy Valley in early June, showing likeable tactical speed from his low draw to sit outside the leader before finding the line strongly to win with the utmost of ease by 2.5 lengths.
Granted he didn’t beat much that night, but the style in which he did it speaks for itself, and he clearly looks better than Class 4 grade.
Shum has found an ideal race for PACKING VICTORY to resume in, with many of his rivals still maidens, and having trialled strongly for his return he will be favoured to continue his winning ways.
Race 1: Dazzling Feeling last run, when in Class 5 for the first time, suggested a win was very near. Father and son Ferraris can kick off the season in winning style. Formula Excel best run to date was last start and from barrier 4 he should map to have every chance. This Is Charisma recent barrier trial was good, suggesting he’ll run a big race first-up. Just needs some luck from the wide draw. Viva Popcorn looks ready to run a big race in Class 5. All Best Friends has a great record in this class and must be respected.
Race 2: Super Axiom easy trial win recently and looks well. Drawn ideally for the straight course and can get back to winning ways. Quadruple Double good performance when returning to form last start, Purton jumps on now and they looked good in a recent trial. California Concord resuming from a break and won a recent trial. Super Win Dragon best run to date was last start, catching the eye late into fifth place, and he could be the knockout chance here. Green Aeon has shown ability and gets his chance to win.
Race 3: Packing Victory looks the one to beat based on current form after he won very well on debut last season. Holding form with an impressive recent trial and he looks too good for this lot. Sight Hero not tested in recent trial and looks very well. From barrier 1, he looks the next-best winning hope. Amigos Giggle has been placed last two starts and deserves a win soon and he looked good when not tested in a recent trial. Nimble Nimbus ran on strongly in recent trial and his debut run was a pass mark, look for improvement. Casa De Forca has ability and should not be underestimated in this grade.
Race 4: Naboo Attack impressive debut winner who is hard to beat here at his second local start. Should be proving hard to hold out on the 113lbs. Lucky Patch remains unbeaten when first-up from a break and he’ll be going close again here after he won by a clear margin last start, albeit carrying much less weight. Winning Dreamer ran on strongly in a recent trial with a nice effort and looks on track to recapture form. Duke Wai resuming from a break and won a recent trial and should be respected with Purton in the saddle. Shining Ace has been placed last three starts, deserves a win soon, but barrier 12 is awkward.
Race 5: Zacian change of trainer recently and can improve as he sees Class 5 for the first time. Fox Cheunger old-timer who is racing in good form and can run well based on his rich vein of form at the end of last season. Lucky Maryknoll has been placed last two starts and a win in Class 5 looks nearby. One Step Ahead change of trainer recently but Moreira remains on board. Just needs some luck from the widest of draws. Sunny Smile finished powerfully with fastest sectional time ranking last start into seventh place, outsider chance.
Race 6: Nervous Witness talented newcomer who looks ready to win here after turning in multiple impressive barrier trials, both in Australia and Hong Kong. He should just be winning first-up for Hayes and Purton. Spicy So Good remains a maiden galloper but he is improving all the time and looks a safe place chance. Cordyceps Six holding form with recent good trial and looks well, should have more to come this season. Kowloon East Star has trialled well for debut and should be rated a chance. Baltic Whisper place chance at value in a race like this.
Race 7: Packing Kingdom recent trials have been quite good, leading all the way in each one, and he looks ready to score at his second career start. Smart Wongchoy nice horse who is a model of consistency and is well overdue for a win after placing on 7 from his 15 starts. President’s Choice has ability and should not be underestimated in this grade. Turquoise Alpha drops down in grade and start following, should be closing off strongly late. Touch Faith remains a maiden galloper but clearly gets a chance to win here.
Race 8: Ezra looks overdue for a win and enters this race in good form after trialling nicely in the off season. Open race but he should be getting every chance here. Shanghai Dragon should begin fast and will be trying to lead all the way based on his usual racing pattern. There’s not much pace in this race, so he could go all the way. Winning Volatility nice 4yo with a good chance here after winning well last time. Red Elysees old-timer who is racing in good form and can run well for new jockey Luke Ferraris. Fast Pace strong trainer and jockey combination with Fownes and Moreira combining.
Race 9: Hall Of Champ racing consistently of late and expect another big run after he took out a recent trial in strong style. Drawn wide, but this is a very weak race which makes things easier. Lucky Fun nice horse who is a model of consistency and the race is between he and Hall Of Champ. Beauty Legacy goes well 1st-up from a break and should be respected in a race lacking depth. Star Performance blinkers have been added and can surprise in a race like this. Super Oasis down in class in this race and should perform better, seemed to be coming to form after a stable change towards the end of last term.
Race 10: Master Montaro recent trials have been quite good and he looks wound up ready for a big first-up run for the Hayes stable. Drawn wide, but gets back anyway. Roman Turbo recent barrier trial was impressive, suggesting a good run can be expected first-up for Purton and Shum. Californiadeepshot narrowly beaten last start and goes close here with some luck from his wide draw. Mister Snowdon a winner at his second local start last time who has trialled well since and looks to have more to come this season. E Star generally gets back in the running but dashes strongly home.