Slipping mark hints at a Time revival
Happy Valley stages just one Group race per season and this year's January Cup (1.15) is a race with four Euro imports and a host of riddles.
Simply Brilliant (formerly Senator for Richard Fahey) was on a roll when winning this £325,000 prize last year but is higher in the weights after a flat effort in the HK Mile, while former Ger Lyons pair Insayshable and Doctor Geoff also have questions to answer after below-par runs.
But, for all his quirks, the mercurial Time Warp is interesting. Consistency certainly hasn't been this powerful chestnut's strong suit for a long while now - and using the whip on him is a complete waste of time - but he's dropped to his lowest mark since winning the G1 HK Cup in 2017 and is 9lb lower than when finishing a good fourth in this last year.
Time Warp is a stone better off with the winner now and showed that some of the old fire still burns when worn down close home by Southern Legend in G3 company on his reappearance.
Southern Legend is back again here, while the reliable Harmony Victory makes his Valley debut after a series of good efforts from well off the pace at Sha Tin.
A strong gallop would be a big help to Harmony Victory. But Time Warp might get away with a softer lead this year and a strong recent trial win suggests that he might just be ready to carry his speed deep into the race and set the chasers a tough target under Karis Teetan.
Size facing high-class problem with HK's latest Beauty
Champions who don't waste words are well worth listening to when they open up and John Size spoke eloquently about a high-class problem after Beauty Legacy's impressive success at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The Fiorente gelding mixed with Australia's best young milers as an aggressive front runner in 2019 and did what very few young horses do on their HK debut in Class 2 company, coming from well back under Joao Moreira and securing a dream run up the inner as he recorded the fastest final 400m split of the day (22.22s) to defy a mark of 92.
A rails-hugging ride from Joao Moreira sees Four-Year-Old Classic Series aspirant Beauty Legacy (ex Hawkshot 🇦🇺) secure his first Hong Kong win on debut! #HKracing pic.twitter.com/zsbcHEVSHm
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 5, 2020
So far, so highly encouraging. But Size hasn't won eleven HK titles without recognising a tricky customer when he sees one and Beauty Legacy's edgy demeanour in the paddock and behind the stalls made him pepper his post-race summary with references to the challenge that lies ahead.
"Today, everything went perfectly," he said. Whether that happens in the future is another matter......so when he comes back for his second run you'll know whether he's going to be manageable or not."
A date with 112-rated Golden Sixty in the Classic Mile (January 27th) is next on Beauty Legacy's agenda and Size is keenly aware there is little margin for error on the road to the BMW Hong Kong Derby in March. "We have to contain his energy so he uses it in the correct manner," he added. "He's got some management issues so we have to iron those out more or less immediately."
Super Oasis no morning glory
Beauty Legacy finished second in the Australian Guineas as a three-year-old and Irish Guineas third Decrypt was also out to enhance his HK classic credentials in the same race on Sunday.
Frankie Lor's grey ran with credit in third, keeping on under Zac Purton, but he hasn't hit the line as hard as looked likely in two HK starts now and the jury is out as to whether such a sprint-bred gelding can improve over a mile, let alone the Derby trip of 2000m.
By contrast, fellow Lor representative Super Oasis looks the sort to come into his own over middle distances and he caught the eye again on Sunday when fourth - keeping on well after catching a bump - in the strong 1800m Class 2 won by Chefano.
South African import Chefano breaks through for his first Hong Kong win in the penultimate event for Joao Moreira & John Moore! #HKracing pic.twitter.com/OEy8szmk88
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 5, 2020
Super Oasis arrived in Hong Kong with a similar profile to his year-older stablemate Furore having run very well in the Rosehill Guineas and Australian Derby.
Furore blossomed after a couple of sighters early in his HK career, winning the Classic Mile and the Derby last season. It would be stretching things to suggest Super Oasis can hit similar heights but we haven't seen the best of him yet in HK and his is a name to remember once the Classic series gets under way.
Star sprinter Aethero on the easy list
One of HK's sprinting showpiece events will go by without a key player after John Moore ruled Aethero out of an intended tilt at the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup on January 19th.
The powerful three-year-old returned with a fever after finishing third behind Beat The Clock and Hot King Prawn when hot favourite for the Hong Kong Sprint last month and trainer John Moore is reluctant to hurry such a precocious young horse into a quick rematch with seasoned older rivals.
"It was going to be a rush to get him to the G1 so I thought better of it," Moore told the South China Morning Post. "We will wait for a race down the track and then talk to the owner about possibly travelling or staying in town."