Hong Kong Diary

The paying public are still locked out due to Coronavirus, but many punters will still be hoping to enjoy a party at Sha Tin this Sunday. Frankie Lor’s exciting sprinter Big Party is one of the headline acts on an 11-race card and all the action will be live on Sky Sports Racing from 4am through to the last on a marathon 11-race card at 9.15.

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MOORE HOLDS KEY WITH POTENT SPRINT PAIR

Some familiar British faces are on deck for Sunday's Fan Lau Handicap at 8.40 but whether they can shine over the minimum trip is doubtful.

Gold Chest (formerly Naval Intelligence for Jane Chapple-Hyam) is fresh from a last-gasp win over 6f but he's up against it from a 6lb higher mark back at 5f, while former St James's Palace Stakes fifth King's Shield looked very rusty on his belated reappearance.

Red Desert progressed nicely as Catan for Roger Charlton and looks a better prospect after a decisive recent All-Weather win, but John Moore may well hold the key to hot class two with progressive pair Stronger and Computer Patch.

Stronger is the obvious favourite under Zac Purton after dismissing a smart field with ease at Happy Valley. He's sure to go well despite a 10lb hike, but Computer Patch has been progressing steadily in warm races over 6f and could also make his mark at a bigger price back at this shorter trip.

PARTY NEEDS TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER IN SUNDAY SHOWPIECE

Moore and Purton also team up when Thanks Forever bids to punch his ticket for the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night in Sunday’s Chek Lap Kok Handicap at 5.30.

Purton feels Thanks Forever has “certainly gone to another level” with fine efforts in Group 1 company on his last two starts, while Sunday’s topweight Hot King Prawn has been placed at the top level on all his last three starts and Joao Moreira feels that “it’s just a matter of time before he gets his first.”

Moreira nominates Big Party as a serious danger and Frankie Lor’s gelding looks sure to be favourite after two impressive wins but the powerful grey’s rider Grant Van Niekerk tempers confidence with a couple of concerns.

“If he puts it together he really turns it on,” he said. “But on one or two occasions I’ve found he can be funny. He might decide to play up in the pens or he hangs out but when he turns it on he puts the race to bed pretty early.”

Big Party was notably sluggish from the stalls when winning his latest barrier trial. He’s likely to go off at around 2.5 but this £280,000 handicap looks more open than the market suggests and no-one should be too surprised if Voyage Warrior and Country Star are in at the finish at much longer odds under feather weights.

FORM AN ORDERLY QUEUE - PUNTERS SHOW PATIENCE AS HK SHOPS RE-OPEN

How many people would rock up at British or Irish betting shops if you couldn't have a bet?

Safe to say that queues would hardly be snaking round the block but that was the case when 17 of Hong Kong's 101 betting shops - closed due to coronavirus in recent weeks - re-opened on Monday to help racing fans cash winning tickets and deposit money into their accounts.

Six of the 17 branches had to be swiftly closed after an estimated 40,000 people tried to re-engage but the HKJC are now addressing concerns over causing crowding in public by opening spacious betting halls at Sha Tin and Happy Valley on certain non racedays. 

Medical masks and temperature screening are mandatory for anyone wishing to cross the threshold and the road to normal service may well be longer than expected. Current circumstances offer precious little hope that the general public will be permitted to go racing again by Derby day (March 22nd) and Champions Day on April 26th offers much more hope of a relaxation of the current lockdown situation.

WAYWARD BEAUTY BIDS TO REVIVE AILING DERBY CLAIMS

John Size has long held the view that "management issues" were going to be vital in deciding whether Beauty Legacy could channel his undoubted energy towards the Hong Kong Derby.

Shop floor truculence has raised serious doubts on that score of late but the headstrong Aussie Group 2 winner has one last chance to stake a persuasive Classic claim when he shoulders top weight in the Mui Wo Handicap at 8.05 on Sunday.

Beauty Legacy got his Hong Kong career off to a flying start with an impressive debut success under Joao Moreira only to pull too hard under restraint when unplaced behind Derby favourite Golden Sixty in the Classic Mile and the Classic Cup.

Size and Moreira are well aware that Beauty Legacy was an aggressive front runner in Australia but whether they will revert to allowing this talented but wayward gelding to roll from the front – and undo a lot of morning work designed to help him relax – remains to be seen.

Hong Kong Diary
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