OWNERS RETURN AS LOCKDOWN LOOSENS SLIGHTLY
Normality remains some way off but Hong Kong racing takes another small step in the right direction at Sha Tin on Saturday when attendance restrictions are relaxed slightly.
Average attendance has dropped from over 20,000 to below 500 during the recent coronavirus lockdown but some Hong Kong public service operations are resuming and, having reviewed the latest situation and health measures already implemented, it has been decided that all racehorse owners (not just those with starters) can attend provided they have a table booking.
Punters remain unable to have a bet in Hong Kong's 101 betting shops but 200,000 customers have been able to place money into their accounts during four non racedays in which 15 selected branches and the wagering halls at Sha Tin and Happy Valley opened for business.
JOAO HEADING FOR BIG TIME PROVIDED RED TAPE CLEARS
Dubai is all set to replicate the Sha Tin lockdown policy on World Cup night (March 28th) and, with Thanks Forever ruled out of the Al Quoz Sprint, the Hong Kong representation is down to just Elusive State in the Godolphin Mile and Big Time Baby in the Golden Shaheen.
G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200m, dirt) entrant Big Time Baby warmed up this morning under Joao Moreira (@cavaleiro83). @DubaiWorldCup @DubaiRacingTV #DubaiWorldCup #HKracing pic.twitter.com/tchqtxlF3t
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 13, 2020
Joao Moreira will partner both horses and former Tom Dascombe sprinter Big Time Baby looked in good order, showing all his usual speed, in an All-Weather barrier trial on Friday morning.
Moreira is hoping that a private jet will enable him to get back to Sha Tin in order to maintain his title push on March 29th but has plenty to look forward to at Meydan.
The Brazilian numbers Japanese stars Glory Vase and Win Bright in the Sheema Classic and Dubai Turf among an increasingly strong book of rides but another potential late headache has surfaced, with the HKJC seeking urgent clarification after the Dubai Health Authority issued a report suggesting that anyone entering the UAE from Hong Kong would be required to spend two weeks in self quarantine.
DUBAI OUT, BRITAIN IN FOR SILVER SADDLE WINNER CHADWICK
Hong Kong owners seldom trade on sentiment and, with Moreira available, Big Time Baby's regular rider Matthew Chadwick will miss out on the Dubai trip this year.
However, Chadwick is having a solid season with 18 winners to rank just outside the top six and the 29-year-old is hoping a working trip to the UK this summer proves every bit as memorable as the last one.
Chadwick stayed with the Hills family in Lambourn during the summer of 2012 and stole the show at the Shergar Cup by winning the Silver Saddle awarded to the leading rider at the Shergar Cup.
"I was flying at that time and I'd like to think I can get some good opportunities again," he said' "I've booked a place in Newmarket for a month from the middle of July and I can ride light so what I need now is the right agent to get me a few chances."
EURO IMPORTS SET TO SHINE AGAIN IN SHA TIN FEATURE
There is a distinctly European feel to Sha Tin's feature race this Saturday with the top three in the market all British or Irish imports.
Formerly known as Urban Aspect for Andrew Balding, Ka Ying Star heads the weights for the Leung Cheung Handicap at 8.35 and has Zac Purton up for the first time after splitting Beauty Generation and top sprinter Hot King Prawn in Group 1 company last month.
Preciousship won twice in Ireland when known as Riyazan for Michael Halford. He lines up in prime form after four wins this season and former Jim Bolger winner Fast Most Furious - who ran him to a head five weeks ago - is back for another crack with Chadwick aboard.
Vincent Ho is "pretty confident" as Preciousship steps up to Class 1 for the first time, while trainer Ricky Yiu feels "there's still a fair bit of improvement in him."
Meanwhile, Purton is relieved that Ka Ying Star will be helping him rather than performing his usual role cramping Beauty Generation's front-running style in top company. "I thought his last effort was really good," he said. "We'll see what type of run he gets but I'm sure he's going to run well."