BEAUTY TOPS THE BILL AGAIN ON SUPER SHA TIN SUNDAY
You must go back 12 months to find the last time Hong Kong’s master miler met with defeat.
It came after a tardy break in a Champions Mile which saw him pressured from the start in a strongly-run race, but Beauty Generation has been flawless in seven straight wins since and John Moore’s gelding will be heavy odds on for the fifth time in a row.
Can this Group 2 contest be his Achilles heel again? Probably not is the short answer. True, he has a 5lb penalty but his form over the last few months – including in his latest G1 success in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup – is on a different level to anything his rivals have achieved.
He heads into his seventh run of the season at the peak of his powers and the vast majority of betting interest in Hong Kong will centre around trying to find the two or three horses to pair with him in combination bets.
CONTE CAN GET CLOSER ON THIRD CRACK AT MASTER MILER
The powerful Conte has got to within three lengths and two lengths of Beauty Generation at level weights in G1 company and clearly must be high on the short list of alternatives to the favourite now he receives 5lb.
Hong Kong’s great enigma Pakistan Star has trialled strongly ahead of his first run since being switched from Tony Cruz to Paul O’Sullivan but he did that several times before the move only for it to prove a false dawn.
Derby disappointment Mission Tycoon looks the most likely candidate to match strides with Beauty Generation early on.
He’s most unlikely to respond when Zac Purton asks the hot favourite to roll for home, but Rise High will be very much at home if the pace is true and looks the sort who could run into a place at a fair price.
TIMING THE KEY AS SPRINT SAGA CONTINUES
Another intriguing chapter in a long-running battle to establish sprinting supremacy will be written on Sunday when Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock square off for the seventh time in the G2 Sprint Cup.
The fact that there has never been more than a third of a second between the pair in six previous encounters tells you all you need to know about the fine margins at play between Hong Kong’s two best 6f horses.
Mr Stunning currently leads 3-2 with a dead heat thrown in for good measure and has Zac Purton aboard for the first time after his owner decided to dispense with the services of Karis Teetan.
That decision was prompted by January’s Centenary Sprint Cup, in which Beat The Clock quickened better than Mr Stunning under Joao Moreira and held on gamely to score by a neck.
Beat The Clock has run another fine race since – chasing home the mighty Beauty Generation over 7f in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup – but he’s back to his ideal trip here and his ability to quicken could prove decisive again given the unusually small field by local standards.
WAIKUKU HAS MORE ON HIS PLATE THAN MARKET SUGGESTS
The tendency for punters to focus firmly on one or two horses – generally up and comers from the major yards – is a familiar feature of even in the most open looking Hong Kong handicaps.
Take Sunday’s Harlech Handicap (due off at 10.10 GMT), for example.
This looks every inch a 4-1 the field race but don’t be surprised if Waikuku goes off much shorter as he bids to make amends for his strong-finishing second in last month’s BMW Hong Kong Derby.
John Size’s gelding has thrived on racing since arriving in HK and did very well to finish so close behind Furore last month, coming home strongly after being dropped out from a wide draw.
If he can win this handsomely from a mark of 108 then he will be firmly on course for a crack at Furore, Exultant and company G1 QEII Cup on April 28th.
However, Waikuku is giving weight to some useful and bang-in-form rivals here. And his presence might just make the market for at least a couple of them.
DREAM AND MONSTER HAVE PLENTY IN THEIR FAVOUR
Dark Dream rates high on the list of alternatives to Waikuku.
Frankie Lor’s gelding also ran better than the bare result suggests in the Derby, forced to race wider than ideal after getting edgy at the stalls but showing up boldly until fading close home.
He's primed to go very well with a good draw and a 4lb pull here and anyone who believes that ratings matter also needs to be aware of Tianchi Monster's claims.
Chris So's gelding went off at 57-1 for the Derby but ran a blinder, travelling well in midfield then plugging on to finish a fine sixth.
Hong Kong handicapping policy means horses who finish outside the first five don't have their mark raised.
Tianchi Monster is 20lb better off with Waikuku for a two and a half-lengths beating as a result. Add in the fact that Matthew Poon claims a further 3lb and he has the look of a very lively outsider.