ELUSIVE AND CIRCUIT ON COURSE FOR SHA TIN FEATURE
This looks a relatively quiet weekend by Hong Kong standards, but all the Saturday action from Sha Tin will be live in glorious HD on Sky Sports Racing and the featured Leighton Handicap over an extended mile of the all-weather track at 9.10 looks a very complex puzzle.
Can top-weight Fight Hero justify his entry in the Golden Shaheen on World Cup night?
The fact that Zac Purton is aboard for the first time is notable but he’s an eight-year-old rated 7lb above his best winning mark and it’s possible a fast-run 1200m suits him best.
Can Turin Redstar (formerly Munro for Ralph Beckett) make it 2-2 on the all-weather at Sha Tin?
Frankie Lor’s gelding is ultra-consistent, but he’s drawn out with the patrons in a full field and only one of the last 54 horses drawn 14 over this course and distance has managed to come home in front.
What about the other Euro imports?
Former John Oxx galloper Calculation is another consistent all-weather performer, but Joao Moreira seems to have passed him over in favour of Raging Blitzkrieg. That’s understandable given how unlucky the former Fabre inmate looked over 1200m here two weeks ago and Raging Blitzkrieg did win over a mile during his days in France.
Former Roses Stakes winner Big Time Baby looks a very unlikely stayer at this trip, but Glorious Artist retains all the ability he showed for Charlie Hills in 2017 and the return to the all-weather should help him run a solid race.
Any others worth a second look?
Elusive State completes his hat-trick at Sha Tin
Elusive State has thrived in more ways than one since joining South African handler Tony Millard, gaining a remarkable 77lb in weight and vaulting from Class 4 to Class 2 thanks to an impressive hat-trick.
His entries for the Godolphin Mile and Dubai World Cup are amazingly ambitious but he prevailed despite a rough trip last time and looks open to further improvement with Silvestre de Sousa aboard for the first time.
Circuit Glory handles the all-weather well and it’s notable that he has spent time at the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Conghua base since a solid third in a strong race on turf in November. He’s a free goer, well suited by racing up with the pace, so stall 3 looks a plus, and if the all-weather surface is playing to the front runners as it often does then this could be an ideal slot for him.
BEAUTY LOOKS A BEAST AS HE ENTERS “SCARY TERRITORY”
Two of Hong Kong’s heaviest hitters flexed their muscles at morning barrier trials his week and the message they sent out was ominous.
Horse of the Year Beauty Generation cruised through a 1000m workout and has clearly emerged from his runaway Hong Kong Mile win in great shape, while Hong Kong Cup winner Glorious Forever crushed his rivals in a 1600m trial and gave the impression he would have happily gone around again had Silvestre de Sousa let him.
Beauty Generation bolts up in the Hong Kong Mile last month
Zac Purton seldom goes overboard in his analysis but feels Beauty Generation is “getting into scary territory with how good he’s starting to become,” while de Sousa feels Glorious Forever is still on the upgrade after his first G1 success because he “knows now what he’s capable of.”
Both horses will be in action at Sha Tin later this month – with Beauty Generation set to be a very short price in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) on January 20th and Glorious Forever bound for the G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) a week later.
A clash between the two seems unlikely in the short term but stud value isn’t a fear where Hong Kong geldings are concerned and a showdown at some point shouldn’t be ruled out, especially if Glorious Forever continues his current rate of progress.
HO PUTTING ON A SHOW WITH MORE BIG-PRICED WINNERS
Superstar riders tend to dominate the Hong Kong betting markets and trying to find value in following Zac Purton and Joao Moreira blindly can be a thankless task.
Forty per cent of Purton’s 253 mounts so far this season have gone off favourite, while the Magic Man has climbed aboard 43 market leaders from just 92 rides since his return from Japan late last year.
It’s hard for any rider to live up to such lofty market expectations in the long term, but the focus on foreign stars masks quiet achievement from several local riders and Vincent Ho’s progress this year is notable.
Vincent Ho guests with Edward Sadler On HK Direct earlier this season
Show jumping’s loss was racing’s gain when Ho became champion apprentice and, now in his tenth season, the 28-year-old fitness fanatic sits clear third in the table with 24 winners including doubles at Sha Tin last Sunday and Happy Valley on Wednesday.
Ho is doing it the hard way compared to his better-known rivals – with only four per cent of his 212 mounts starting favourite and none of his winners starting at the head of the market.
His last four winners – sent off at 5-1, 9-1, 28-1 and 12-1 – are emblematic of his ability to outride the market and everything looks in place for him to enjoy his best ever season.p>