Hong Kong Diary

Happy Valley plays host to one of Hong Kong's most colourful nights of the year when twelve world-class riders compete for the Longines International Jockeys' Championship on Wednesday. The line-up is spectacular by any standards, with UK champions Dettori, De Sousa, Moore and Murphy among the cast list, and the entire nine-race card will be live on Sky Sports Racing from 10.30 am.

  • Tuesday 03 December
  • Blog
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Frankie up against it on return to the Valley

Frankie is back in town and the spotlight will be brighter than ever as the world's most famous jockey returns to Hong Kong for the Longines International Jockeys' Championship.

Dettori, who won the first of three IJC titles way back in 1999, remains at the peak of his powers as his 49th birthday approaches and has enjoyed an epic 2019 with 19 G1 winners headed by the mighty Enable.

Frankie Dettori

However, his first visit to Happy Valley in seven years revolves around four valuable handicaps in which the rides were allocated by ballot on Monday.

On the face of it, Frankie foursome looks less than formidable. Once-raced Nunchuks is well drawn but very hard to assess ahead of the first leg at 12.10, while Starship and badly-drawn Pakistan Friend need to leave mediocre runs behind to make a splash in the 12.40 and 1.40.

However, Dettori should be involved aboard John Moore's Happy Dragon in the IJC final leg at 2.10. The Raven's Pass gelding showed plenty in a short career for Michael Halford and his recent good form suggests another bold effort is on the cards.

Absence makes the draw grow stronger for Teetan

Karis Teetan was in the middle of a testing Pilates class on Monday morning when his phone blew up with a slew of texts missed calls and WhatsApp messages.

The fact that the IJC draw gods had smiled on him with a notably strong book of rides was the reason for the activity and the Mauritian rider is well aware that he now has a golden opportunity to polish his progressive profile against a field that also includes Ryan Moore, Oisin Murphy, Joao Moreira, Zac Purton, Pierre-Charles Boudot and last year's champion Silvestre de Sousa.

Karis Teetan

"I've had no luck with the IJC draw in the last two years and this Pilates instructor is hard to book so I decided to hit the gym instead this year," he explained.

"All the messages were saying 'where are you?'or something similar so lets hope people are right because winning an IJC against an unbelievable field like this one would be fantastic for me."

G Unit poised to get the party started

Teetan has the chance to get off to a flying start aboard the Moore-trained G Unit in the opening leg of Wednesday's contest at 12.10 and will be well fancied to finish on a high when the highly progressive High Rev lines up for the last leg at 2.10.

G Unit is lightly raced and took a big step forward on his Valley debut in October, settling matters with a good turn of foot early in the straight and beating subsequent winner Mehboob with more in hand than the official margin of half a length suggests.

A 7lb hike shouldn't be enough to stop him going close again, while High Rev has been raised  a similar amount for his latest Valley success but is improving at a rapid rate with the potential to progress again now that he steps up to 1800m for the first time.

Champion De Sousa wide awake to the Valley vibe

Silvestre de Sousa took HK's spectacular city track by storm in last year's IJC, riding two winners and two placed horses to set a record total of 34 pts based on twelve for a win, six for a place and four for a third.

The Brazilian feels Ryan Moore could be one to keep an eye on this year and has no hesitation in saying that Happy Valley has the ability to keep riders awake in more ways than one.

Silvestre De Sousa

"I've ridden in a lot of countries and there's no doubt this place is one of the most challenging tracks anywhere in the world," he said.

"Chester is just as tight but they often get strung out there, whereas at the Valley you have to get every move just right both when you're doing your form beforehand and when you're racing in tight the whole way around."

De Sousa seldom gets back to his Sha Tin base before midnight after a Valley meeting before midnight - later if the stewards want a chat - and sleep is hard to come by once he does retire.

"I think it's a combination of riding under such bright lights and the adrenaline of competing every half hour with the last race at just before eleven o'clock," he added. "The adrenaline is still pumping as you try to get off to sleep and that's not ideal if the alarm is going off before five a.m, for Thursday morning trackwork."

Purton power a plus for Joyful Union

Races where jockey's mounts are decided by ballot can be a mixed blessing for HK riders used to having a range of attractive options and Zac Purton left Monday's IJC allocation ceremony by describing his book of mounts as "awful"

HK's champion rider will need every ounce of his Valley nous to make the most of what looks a very ordinary hand but there is one more strong contest to come once the IJC races are over and Joyful Union looks a strong chance for the clinical Aussie in the Australia Handicap at 2.50.

Benno Yung's gelding was impressive over course and distance on his sole previous attempt under Purton and has continued to progress since, coming home strongly after a tardy break to chase home the unbeaten Hardly Swears on his latest start.

The handicapper has been kind in raising Joyful Union by just 1lb for that and stall one is a significant added plus as he bids to put the smile back on his partner's face.

Hong Kong Diary
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