Hong Kong Diary

The Group 1 action in Hong Kong is over for another year but there is plenty going on both on and off the track at Sha Tin and Happy Valley. Popular Italian rider Umberto Rispoli will be looking to bow out with a winner at Sha Tin on Sunday on a ten-race card covered live on Sky Sports Racing.

  • Friday 13 December
  • Blog
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The HKIR undercard has thrown up plenty of good horses over the years and last Sunday's Class 2 finale was notable in several respects.

Richard Fahey held a high opinion of More Than This when he won three from three as a juvenile in 2018 and the Dutch Art gelding continued his rapid ascent up the local ratings by charging from a poor position to make it four in a row in thrilling style under Karis Teetan.

Francis Lui's gelding has improved from a mark of 72 to 97 during his winning spree and has put down a solid early marker for the 2020 Classic Series made up of the Classic Mile (Jan 27th), Classic Cup (Feb 23rd) and the BMW Hong Kong Derby on March 22nd.

Former Michael Halford galloper Playa Del Puente didn't enhance his Classic claims by fading into eighth behind More Than This but Super Oasis is certainly a name to note after a very encouraging HK debut.


Frankie Lor, who landed this year's Derby with Furore, lost one of his main contenders for 2020 when Victoria Derby winner Extra Brut sustained fatal injuries in a freak accident on Tuesday morning.

However, Lor has several other possible Derby hopes and Super Oasis - who showed smart form in New Zealand and Australia - looks set to rate a good deal higher than his current 88 as the season progresses.

Ridden by Zac Purton after impressing in several barrier trials, Super Oasis travelled powerfully up with a pace in a race that suited those held up and only gave best to More Than This and three other hardened rivals inside the final furlong.

The fact that he's already proven over middle distances is significant as regards his Derby claims but on this showing he's well capable of scoring at around a mile before the major Derby trials come around.


Hong Kong's jockey merry-go-round seldom stands still for long and this week has seen it rev up with news that Umberto Rispoli and Regan Bayliss are both leaving town.

The colourful Rispoli has tasted high-level success in his native Italy and France as well as Hong Kong, while Bayliss was one of the most up-and-coming riders in Australia when he signed up for the HKJC last year.

However, the fact that Hong Kong's top three riders tend to win almost half of all races run puts an inevitable squeeze on the other 20 riders.

Bayliss will resume in Melbourne when his deal expires at the end of the year, while Rispoli has his final rides at Sha Tin this Sunday before trying his luck on the California circuit.

"I'm 31 years old and need to see if I can get some better opportunities," he said. "I miss that feeling of winning Group 1's and I need to take it back - new year, new life."


Rispoli has seven chances to sign off with a winner at Sha Tin on Sunday, including aboard Amazing Luck in the finale at 9.00.

Paul O'Sullivan's gelding has a recent win to his name, while Reliable Team is bound to be popular with Zac Purton aboard having won three from five at Happy Valley.

However, Smart Patch is the one who could have something in hand of his current handicap mark. This five-year-old has looked progressive on three of his last four starts, bolting up over this course and distance in October and then finishing a solid third last month.

Smart Patch did really well on the latter occasion, staying on willingly after Alex Lai asked him to make a big move out wide on the home turn. Vincent Ho is unlikely to get busy so early and Smart Patch looks one of the most interesting horses on the card as a result.

Hong Kong Diary
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