Hong Kong Diary

Two star names are missing as HK racing returns to Happy Valley this week, with Joao Moreira and Karis Teetan on the sidelines for the next two fixtures due to suspension. The door is ajar for Zac Purton to reduce Moreira's six-strong lead atop the jockeys' table and a £220,000 Class 2 dash is the highlight of an eight-race card that gets under way on Sky Sports Racing at 12.15.

  • Tuesday 06 October
  • Blog
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HK sets sights on Ballydoyle brigade

Aidan O'Brien and Highland Reel in Hong Kong
Aidan O'Brien with Highland Reel after winning the 2017 Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin

The Longines HKIR welcome mat is firmly out for star European horses after last weekend's rash of Arc weekend withdrawals caused by a contaminated feed issue.

Aidan O'Brien is making new plans for Serpentine, Mogul, Japan and Sovereign after Sunday's French frustration and Bill Nader, who plays a key recruitment role as HKJC Director of Racing Business and Operations, is well aware that Sha Tin's December showpiece is a viable and valuable alternative for numerous stars with four G1 contests worth almost £10m.

“The whole thing doesn’t hurt our position and if you have a horse that is ready to go in a big race like the Arc and that has been taken away, there are only a few options left," he said. “We have had great conversations with the team and I am sure Coolmore will be here in a big way come December if everything is set to go."

Excellent takes latest step on Classic trail

It takes a lot to impress seasoned HK punters, as evidenced by reaction to Excellent Proposal's latest Sha Tin success on Sunday. Veteran local analyst Alan Aitken is no stranger to a mushroom clouded Twitter "kaboom" when his selections shine - or occasionally when they don't - but here he pointed to a slow time to argue that the race "failed miserably" in revealing more about John Size's gelding.

Still, Sunday's win confirmed that Excellent Proposal has an admirably professional approach and Size plans to give him a break before aiming at the Classic Mile in January. Excellent Proposal is now rated 98. That's an appreciably lower mark than Size's two previous Classic Mile winners carried into the race but he has ample time to shine again before the big day in January and Joao Moreira  feels "it's just a matter of time before he gets to those big races against his own age group and he will be hard to beat.”

Second costly ban slow's Moreira momentum

Moreira remains six clear of Zac Purton at the top of the jockeys' table but the ability to keep out of the inquiry room can be very valuable and the Magic Man has opened the door for his Aussie rival of late.

A two-meeting ban for failing to ride out for fourth at Sha Tin last week starts this Wednesday, while Moreira picked up a similar suspension for careless riding on Sunday and will also be out of action on November 4th and 8th as a result.

Temple proves Heaven sent for former foes

Temple Of Haven

Meanwhile, Purton finally produced a winner for the man who preceded him as HK's pre-eminent rider when Temple Of Heaven battled home in Sunday's Mui Wo Handicap.

It's no secret that Purton and Douglas Whyte spent a long time with daggers drawn while chasing top rides but things have changed now Whyte is training and Temple Of Heaven - who won three from four for Richard Hannon in 2019 - showed plenty of spirit to edge home in a three-way photo.

The post-race quotes, though clearly coded, suggest there is room for further shared success. “Douglas just tells you how it is so there’s no grey area between us," said Purton to the South China Morning Post. Meanwhile, the diplomatic Whyte added: "He is who he is, I am who I am, and if we can have lots more winners it will benefit both of us."

Champion in pole position with key foes absent

Finding value about Purton's mounts on a night when his two main rivals are missing is never going to be easy but there's no doubt that the champion has a powerful hand with five or six of his seven rides likely to head the market.

Frankie Lor's Kinda Cool thrived in four runs last season, beating two subsequent winners over 1200m at the Valley on his final start. He still looks nicely treated from a 6lb higher mark in the 2.45, while stall 2 and the near certainty of a blazing gallop bode well for a big run from the progressive Highland Fortune in the finale at 3.50.

Hong Kong Diary
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