Blinkers and Purton to help Oasis bloom
The latest round in the battle for the HK jockeys’ title went 2-1 in favour of Zac Purton at Happy Valley on Wednesday, leaving the current champion 116-114 ahead with 17 scheduled fixtures left.
Much can happen in the next eight weeks but getting on the right horses remains key and Purton will be optimistic that his Valley winners – the progressive Compassion Star and Victoriam - can do him another good turn. Purton and Moreira have both failed to find the key to former Derby hope Super Oasis thus far but a couple of key factors are in play as the Aussie gets back aboard for Sunday’s featured Hoi Ha Handicap at 9.35.
Super Oasis has left Frankie Lor to join table-topping Ricky Yiu since meeting trouble in the Derby and now races in blinkers for the first time with Yiu saying “I expect him to do something.” What Super Oasis did in headgear in a recent trial was very encouraging. He skipped clear of useful rivals in style that morning and looks a key player in a £220,000 handicap that also features two capable but hit-and-miss British imports in Private Secretary and Uncle Steve.
Chau in demand after opening double
The problem with setting the bar high is that people want to see you raise it. A debut day double last weekend puts HK’s new apprentice Jerry Chau in the spotlight again at Sha Tin on Sunday and the 20-year-old’s 10lb claim will be put to use in nine of the ten races.
Two of the nine will be familiar to British and Irish fans. Reynolds showed promise in two runs for Eve Johnson-Houghton but has his work cut out in the 9.05 based on three runs for Douglas Whyte. But Young Legend, a Fairyhouse winner as Low Latency for Darren Bunyan, looks live in an open finale at 10.45. Danny Shum’s gelding endured a tough trip when dropped out at the Valley last time but he’s very capable at Class 3 level and is the sort of strong traveller who could prove a neat fit for a good claimer.
Derby fifth thwarted at 200-1
Chau’s 10lb claim assisted Buddies in last week’s Sha Tin feature and victory came at the chief expense of 2018 Derby fifth Hazapour (now Amazing One Plus) who was sent off at 200-1 for his HK debut but stayed on strongly for second. Danny Shum’s gelding looks a useful prospect if he stands training and news of two more Euros has filtered through. Valdermoro landed the Acomb Stakes for Richard Fahey last August. Now called Perpetuum, the Declaration of War gelding has been with Tony Cruz since January but hasn’t run yet and is due for another break after returning lame from a trial.
Meanwhile, a Ballydoyle graduate will make his debut under top weight for Michael Chang in Sunday’s 8.35. Smart Folks was known as King Neptune when fourth in Earthlight’s Middle Park and has Purton booked but it’s hard to think he’s ready to strike early in his new home based on some ordinary morning trial efforts.
High draw ideal as progressive War returns to battle
Kurpany is also on deck for Sunday’s 8.35 and the Mayson gelding, who won at Tipperary on his sole run for Andrew Slattery, has done enough to suggest he can go well in a race which throws up several intriguing questions. The issue of why Purton doesn’t renew acquaintance with hat-trick seeking Good View Clarico is clear – he can’t do the weight – but the fact that new rider Ben So is 1-233 this season hardly bolsters confidence.
The consistent Diamond Brilliant steps down to the minimum trip with Moreira back aboard as he bids to break a frustrating run of placings, but another son of Declaration of War looks the safe option. War of Courage is a strong, good-looking youngster who has progressed well in six starts, winning twice over Sha Tin’s 1000m then finishing a solid third after working hard to get the lead from a high draw over 1200m. The step back in trip looks a plus and stall 14 looks tailor made for his high cruising style with Chad Schofield aboard.
Return of members boosts attendance
Coronavirus resurfaced in HK this week – with a grandmother testing positive to break a 23-day streak without a locally transmitted infection – but society continues to move back towards normality with gatherings of up to eight people permitted at bars and restaurants and various leisure facilities opening up again. Racing continues to move in harmony with government recommendations and the return of various members in midweek boosted the Valley crowd to over 1200. Happy Valley opens its doors for cross betting on Sha Tin’s Sunday card but all of HK’s 101 betting shops remain closed for the moment.