Hong Kong Diary

BCD remains the motto in Hong Kong at present but the fact that racing is continuing behind closed doors isn’t hindering betting turnover much and punters have an excellent Sha Tin card to tempt them this Sunday. The action starts at 5.45am live on Sky Sports Racing and star names like Aethero, Hot King Prawn, Beauty Generation and Waikuku top the bill in two Group 2 contests that act as dress rehearsals for Champions Day in three weeks’ time.

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ACCELERATION KEY AS MILE STARS PREPARE FOR ROUND SIX

Two potential outcomes dominate as Hong Kong’s best milers square off for the sixth time in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (6.45am) at Sha Tin this Sunday.

The first has Beauty Generation rolling back the years to reclaim his status as Hong Kong’s equine hero under Zac Purton, while the second involves Waikuku pouncing late under Joao Moreira to go 5-1 up in a series that has played out in familiar style of late.

Romantics will be rooting for scenario one and Beauty Generation proved that he remains a force at Group 1 level with a gritty success over 7f in February.

But put down the rose tinted binoculars and look back at the last three meetings between the big two.

Waikuku ran past Beauty G sweetly when the pair finished first and third in the Jockey Club Mile and did so again when the pair filled the placings behind Japanese raider Admire Mars in the Hong Kong Mile on HKIR day.

The margin wasn’t quite so clear in the Stewards’ Cup, but Moreira always looked confident aboard Waikuku and the ex-Irish gelding’s turn of foot looks increasingly like the deciding factor in this ongoing saga nowadays.

What they say:

John Moore (Beauty Generation): “He’s bucking and squealing, so that’s always a good sign. Waikuku is the big danger but he hasn’t raced in a little while so maybe he’ll just need the run with the Champions Mile in mind. In his heyday, Beauty Generation would have beaten Waikuku but we’re another year on. He’s not old but he’s getting on and he’s not the force he was that could just go those dominating sectionals. Now they’re starting to get closer but he’s in good order and he’s there to win.”

Joao Moreira (Waikuku): “I think he could be the champion here. All he’s done so far has me extremely happy with him. I often go to the yard and look at him and he’s looking fantastic so I don’t see why he wouldn’t perform at his best this start.”

PRAWN’S PROVEN FITNESS A PLUS IN ROUND THREE WITH EXCITING AETHERO

Hong Kong betting markets tend to pinpoint the right favourite with a high degree of efficiency and it will be fascinating to see which way the scales tip when Aethero returns in Sunday’s Sprint Cup at 9.10.

John Moore’s powerful chestnut – still only three yet weighing in at over 1250lb – has long been regarded as a potential champion. His runaway Jockey Club Sprint defeat of a high-class field headed by Hot King Prawn in November was perhaps the most visually striking success recorded in Hong Kong all season, but subsequent events have put a slightly different complexion on things.

Aethero gave his all until worn down late by Beat The Clock and Hot King Prawn in the Hong Kong Sprint in December but returned with an infection which took enough out of him for connections to abandon an intended trip to Dubai.

Meanwhile, Hot King Prawn has been busy showing up boldly against the best around, turning out once a month and showing class and courage aplenty to get the better of Aethero’s stablemate Thanks Forever and former sprint champion Mr Stunning from a HK mark of 125 in a red-hot handicap here four weeks ago.

Aethero’s current condition can only be assessed from a couple of successful morning trials -  the second more convincing than the first -  but this represents a far more demanding test. He looks bound to roll along in front under Purton but Moreira will have him in his sights from the inside gate on Hot King Prawn. And, with form and fitness in no doubt and a 5lb pull compared to his last scrap with Aethero, the Prawn looks the value option.

What they say:

John Moore (Aethero): “The HK Sprint came earlier in his career than would normally have been ideal. He’s still only a three-year-old but he has so much ability and he showed it in running a close third. Now he’s showing us that he’s in good health and his trial the other day was much better, right up to expectations. This is preliminary bout to get him tuned up and in the zone for the big one (Chairman’s Sprint Prize) at the end of the month.”

John Size (Hot King Prawn): “He’s in good shape and he’s finally showing his maturity and development. He’s at the right age for these good sprint races and he’s had no interruptions since the beginning of the season – he’s been strong all the way through.”

POWERFUL PING AIMING TO POUNCE AGAIN

Moreira leads Purton by 95-92 at the top of the jockeys’ table and the Brazilian has plenty of backup to Waikuku and Hot King Prawn among a full book of ten rides on Sunday, culminating with Ping Hai Bravo in the Homestead Handicap at 10.15 and Farhh Above in the Lugard Handicap at 10.50.

Ping Hai Bravo is one of the biggest beasts in training at Sha Tin  – weighing in at 1291lb – and John Size’s gelding looks nailed on to go very close having been raised 7lb for an emphatic course and distance success two weeks ago.

The only downside is the likely short price – shorter still if Moreira is on a roll – in which case Star Luck suggests himself as the obvious value alternative. Frankie Lor’s gelding has caught the eye on both his last two starts, showing up boldly on the sharp end of in well-run races, and he looks another very strong contender in a race where plenty are tough to fancy.

WHYTE HOPING FARHH CAN GO ABOVE AND BEYOND IN FINALE

Moreira climbs aboard Farhh Above for the first time in the finale and does so with trainer Douglas Whyte hoping his lightly-raced gelding can bounce back from a couple of odds on reverses.

The first of those defeats was entirely excusable – as Vincent Ho found all the trouble going – but the second under Alexis Badel was harder to forgive.

Farhh Above’s reappearance win, hallmarked by impressive closing splits, marked him out as a young handicapper with a very rosy future and Whyte is in no mood to change his high opinion.

“He feels fantastic in the mornings,” he said. “I wish I could put my finger on what happened. Every horse is allowed a bad run and that was probably his so hopefully he will bounce out of it.”

It’s unlikely punters will desert Farhh Above in a race featuring several British imports. Glorious Lover (Ed Walker) and Hall Of Champ (Munhamek for Ivan Furtado) have both shown promise but Craig’s Star, with the aid of Victor Wong’s 5lb claim for the first time, looks a likely lad if the favourite fails to deliver again.

Hong Kong Diary
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