Hong Kong Diary

One in, one out has been the theme in another dramatic news week for Hong Kong racing. Grant Van Niekerk's highly successful stay was cut short abruptly when he was fired on Monday and so opportunity knocks for new French import Antoine Hamelin as he emerges from quarantine at Sha Tin on Sunday. Joao Moreira leads Zac Purton by two as the battle for the jockeys title continues and the big two are active in every race on an eleven-race card covered live on Sky Sports Racing.

  • Saturday 11 April
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MOREIRA HOPING BEAUTY CAN BOUNCE BACK

Joao Moreira was at his elegant best in winning on Douglas Whyte's Simply Fluke at the Valley in midweek, seizing the inside rail from an outside draw in a way that precious few riders could hope to emulate, but the Brazilian faces a far different test of his skills when he reunites with the fiery Beauty Legacy in Sunday's featured Austin Handicap at 10.45.

A destructive headstrong streak saw John Size's gelding fall by the wayside on the Derby trail and a more promising recent morning trial suggests that connections may well be planning to revert to the freewheeling tactics that carried him to impressive Group 2 success in Australia.

Moreira said: "He was not able to produce his best his last two starts because of his temper. He was using every bit of energy fighting me. When I let him roll forward at the trial, he definitely felt much better and the strength he was able to show me at the end was really good."

Stall 5 will be useful if Beauty Legacy is to go forward but this looks a hot Class 2 and Hong Kong's newest riding recruit rates high on the list of dangers.

HAMELIN FINDS HIS PERFECT MATCH

Two weeks of quarantine is mandatory for any foreign visitors arriving in Hong Kong at present but French import Antoine Hamelin has emerged from his spell in lockdown and is primed to start a three-month contract with nine rides on Sunday.

The 29-year-old Frenchman has more than 700 winners on his record - including the 2012 Prix du Jockey Club aboard Saonois - and Perfect Match will be well suited by the return to 7f after enduring a rough trip under Zac Purton over 6f on his latest start.

Purton is back aboard last year's Irish Guineas third Decrypt with fair claims this time but Vincent Ho partners perhaps the most solid each-way option of all in Star Shot.

Francis Lui's chestnut has been showing up boldly at this level for a while now and his strong finish could be telling if Beauty Legacy and Perfect Match push the pace from an early stage.

PURTON'S PRESENCE A PLUS FOR IRISH IMPORT KURPANY

Grant Van Niekerk’s shock sacking early this week left Hong Kong with just 18 active riders for Wednesday’s Valley fixture and salt was rubbed into the South African’s wounds when two of his intended mounts – Young Legend and Larson – saluted under Zac Purton and Chad Schofield.

Schofield is in prime form after eight winners in as many meetings, while Aussie star Blake Shinn ended a quiet spell aboard Bear Again and is looking forward to a strong finish to a season which has yielded ten winners and no fewer than 37 seconds.

Both men have live chances in Sunday's Ho Man Tin Handicap at 9.35, with Shinn aboard reliable top weight Valiant Dream and Schofield on hat-trick seeking Trust Me. Valiant Dream still looks fairly treated having been raised 3lb for being short headed by the progressive War Of Courage, the pair clear of Larson, and has to be high on any short list.

Further down the weights, the ex-Irish Kurpany is harder to assess accurately. However, the Mayson gelding won his sole start for Andrew Slattery and has trialled like a fair horse since joining John Moore.

Add in a promising debut and the fact that Purton seems to have chosen him ahead of Trust Me and he has the look of a potential improver.

SIXTY STAYS AT DERBY DISTANCE FOR CHAMPIONS DAY

The smoke surrounding Hong Kong's most significant spring weekend of the year is gradually clearing after entries were published for three Group 1 contests on FWD Champions Day in two weeks' time.

Severe travel restrictions have put paid to the prospect of international raiders taking part and two leading members of the home team - namely Golden Sixty and More Than This - have had their big-race targets switched by leading handler Francis Lui.

Derby winner Golden Sixty looks poised to remain at 10f for a clash with champion middle distance stayer Exultant in the QEII Cup on April 26th, while former Richard Fahey galloper More Than This will move back to 8f to take on Beauty Generation in the Champions Mile.

Hong Kong Diary
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