Hong Kong Diary

Joao Moriera finds himself in pole position for the jockeys' title as the HK season moves on to Happy Valley on Wednesday.

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Moreira moves clear with Sha Tin treble

Encouraging signs are emerging as Hong Kong continues to contain the spread of coronavirus, with new infections down to single figures in recent days as renewed safety measures take effect.

Racing continues behind closed doors at Happy Valley on Wednesday and the updates on equine and human stars have been coming thick and fast.

Joao Moreira moved four ahead of Zac Purton atop the jockeys’ table with a Sha Tin treble on Sunday that was notable for the fact that the Aussie was his closest pursuer in all three legs.

Joao Moreira
Joao Moreira is four clear in the HK Jockeys' Championship.

French import Antoine Hamelin bounced straight out of quarantine and into the spotlight with a double on his first day and the growing global interest in HK racing as the rest of the world locks down was marked by a 35 per cent increase in international commingling turnover.

Low draw a plus for consistent Power

The problem with importing horses from top trainers such as William Haggas is that coaxing improvement from them tends to be tough.

Look back to 2009 and Collection won a HK Derby having joined John Moore from Haggas. By contrast, recent big money Somerville Lodge transfers like Rivet and Lockheed are 0-40 combined in their new home.

The next cab off Haggas's HK rank is Amazing Knight - who won two from two when known as Knight Shield last summer - and the Starspangledbanner gelding has trialed well enough for new handler John Size.

Antoine Hamelin
Antoine Hamelin has already made an impact since leaving quarantine in Hong Kong.

He's bound to corner a fair chunk of the market with Moreira booked but Class 3 at the Valley is a tough school for newcomers and that man Hamelin has a live chance on his Valley debut aboard Victory Power.

Douglas Whyte's gelding has been running consistently well at this level despite a series of high draws but he jumps from the inside barrier this time and looks primed to go close again.

Pegasus can fly for in-form Schofield

Slowly but surely, Chad Schofield is carving out a breakthrough season.

The 26-year-old - averaging a winner a meeting over the last month and now fifth in the table after recording his 30th success of the season on Sunday - has several fair chances to extend his hot streak and Yee Cheong Pegasus looks well worth a second look in what should be a strongly-run Larch Handicap at 12.15.

This Lonrho gelding has thrived since joining the canny Tony Millard last summer and lines up for a winnable Class 4 after three fine efforts at Sha Tin, the latest a clear second behind an unexposed rival three weeks ago. A 2lb rise looks more than fair and, for all that the Valley offers a different test, Yee Cheong Pegasus travels like a horse who might just relish it.

Sixty team still wavering as Exultant steps out

Stick with a flawless seven-race season or twist for a clash with HK's champion middle-distance stayer?

Those are the twin options facing connections of Golden Sixty and recent messages over whether the HK Derby winner will step to take on Exultant in next week's QEII Cup have been mixed.

Golden Sixty's trainer Francis Lui insists "everything his fine" but adds that "I just don't want to push him," while jockey Vincent Ho galloped the Medaglia d'Oro gelding on Tuesday morning and added that "we're still discussing it, there's no rush."

Meanwhile, Exultant will bid to go one better than last year in the QEII Cup on the back of a rigorous turf trial On Tuesday morning. The former Irish Guineas third seldom shines in the mornings but Purton pushed him out firmly to nose ahead of old rival Time Warp as his preparations for the £2.5m showpiece continue.

Hong Kong Diary
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