Racing in lockdown in fight against coronavirus
Slowly but surely, Hong Kong racing is moving towards a behind-closed-doors scenario as the impact of coronavirus spreads.
Attendance limits imposed late in January were further reduced last week - along with the closure of all HK's 101 betting shops - and another reduction means that only jockeys, trainers, officials, officials and owners with runners will be present at the next three HK meetings.
HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, who confirmed that the Club has sourced a million medical masks for employees, feels that restricting attendance to around 400 people provides "minimal risk" and spelled out the potential consequences of more severe measures to the South China Morning Post.
"We really think it is important to keep racing and provide a source of entertainment in these circumstances," he said. "If we stop racing, it is likely we won't be back for about three months."
Deepshot faces draw dilemma again at the Valley
It takes an unusual horse to defy stall 12 in a Class 3 sprint at Happy Valley on his HK debut.
Californiadeepshot was that horse two weeks ago and the draw gods have challenged Tony Cruz's gelding to do the same with bells on when he lines up from the outside gate on the C+3 track in Wednesday's Fo Tan Handicap at 2.50.
What a debut!
He was undefeated in Australia & now he's undefeated in Hong Kong... Californiadeepshot bolts in to give @KarisTeetan a treble! 🔥 #HKracing pic.twitter.com/n3g0eJlQZD
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 29, 2020
Only two of the last 61 horses to jump from stall 12 with the Valley rail out in its widest position have won. That compares starkly with the 16 of 63 who have won from stall one, but Californiadeepshot took full advantage of the fact that he wasn't pressured and rattled off a rapid 22.63s final split to trounce useful rivals.
Logic suggests Victory In Hand will ensure Californiadeepshot has to work much harder for the early lead this time. And that could assist Green Reign, who handled a demanding pace well when pipped here last month and is open to further progress on just his fourth HK start.
Desire on the rise with Moreira booked
The draw also promises to play a significant role in shaping the Sai Kung Handicap at 11.15 in which four old rivals lock horns again.
Flying Godspell capitalised on stall 1 when the quartet met here last month but a 7lb hike and stall 10 mean a case can be made for Amazing and Jolly Convergence - who stayed on for third and fourth - making a much better fist of it.
Flying Godspell wins for Jimmy Ting... the handler's form line for his last 8 runners at Happy Valley reads 21123191 🔥 #HappyWednesday #HKracing pic.twitter.com/9I7UlCPV3b
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 15, 2020
However, an even more persuasive case can be made forExceptional Desire, who used up valuable energy trying to offset stall 12 and did well to be beaten under three lengths into sixth all things considered.
Stall 6 offers the prospect of a much softer run to the home turn this time. Add in a 2lb drop in the weights and the booking of Joao Moreira and everything looks in place for Exceptional Desire to go very close indeed.
More steps out as Sixty suffers setback
British and Irish imports excelled in Sha Tin's feature events over the weekend, with Preciousship (formerly Riyazan for Michael Halford) and Gold Chest (aka Naval Intelligence for Jane Chapple-Hyam) both landing £200,000 Class 2 handicaps.
Wednesday's Valley card features more notable Euros, with the useful Awe (William Haggas) and Golden Spectrum(Gay Kelleway) sporting cheekpieces for the first time as they head the weights for the 1.45.
Surrealism (Maverick Wave for David Simcock), Big Bang Bong (Bing Bang Bong for David Barron) and Zhan Jiang Rocks (Barford for Pam Sly) add to the British flavour, but HK's most interesting recent UK recruit was sighted in a barrier trial at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning.
Leading Derby hope More Than This had an undemanding workout under Zac Purton and his chances of winning the £1m Classic Cup on February 23rd have only increased with the news that high-class stablemate Golden Sixty could miss the race after spiking a temperature.
HK beaks get the drop on Karis
Further evidence that HK and the UK are poles apart when it comes to the whip came in an unusual incident at Sha Tin on Saturday.
Karis Teetan gave Wayfoong Charmer half a dozen cracks and was in the process of switching the whip when it slipped from his grasp around 150m out.
A similar incident would go unremarked on in most racing nations but the HK beaks take a sterner view and the fact that this was Teetan's fourth such "offence" this season saw him "fined the sum of HK$5,000 (around £500) and placed on notice regarding this aspect of his riding."