Pre-Christmas Party on the cards
One of the more striking draw issues at Happy Valley emerges when the rail is out wide in Wednesday's C+3 position over 1200m.
Setting the track to its narrowest generally spells trouble for those draw high - with a measly 3% win rate for those drawn 10-12 - and the outside gate is a big concern for former Gordon Elliott sprinter Loving A Boom in the closing Mercury Handicap at 2.50.
John Moore's Stronger has fared much better in stall 6 after a promising HK debut over 1000m at Sha Tin but, with Christmas looming, this could be the night for a Big Party.
Frankie Lor's muscular grey has a chequered profile - with three impressive wins and three unplaced efforts at odds on from seven starts - but he looks very smart when on song and caught the eye travelling powerfully for a long way when fifth at Sha Tin on his reappearance.
It's intriguing to note that Lor has booked Joao Moreira to partner Big Party for the first time, especially given that regular recent rider Purton doesn't have a ride in the race.
Whatever the reasons behind that decision, recent wins by the third and fourth have given Big Party's reappearance form a very solid look. Stall 5 looks ideal for a stalking trip in a fast-run race and his smooth-travelling style should lend itself very well to the Valley.
Stamina query as Decrypt embarks on Classic trail
Any horse good enough to finish third in an Irish 2000 Guineas is a very welcome addition to the HK ranks.
Exultant has followed that path to become an exceptional middle distance stayer - with career earnings of £5m and counting - but time will tell if Decrypt has similar potential.
"Game, set and Perfect Match!"
Perfect Match & @AlexisBadel win the Class 2 Lukfook Jewellery Cup ahead of the fast-finishing Joyful Trinity & Decrypt. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/QwLdXUzrF0
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 15, 2019
The diminutive grey reached a high level quickly for Paddy Twomey, chasing home Phoenix of Spain and Too Darn Hot at the Curragh in May, and went into plenty of notebooks on Sunday's debut for Frankie Lor when third from a mark of 93 over 1400m.
Purton felt Decrypt's early exuberance told close home and that free-going tendency, along with his pedigree, could be important factors in deciding his longer term future.
Another 1400m run on January 5th will help establish how high he can fly but Decrypt is by Dark Angel from a family known almost exclusively for sprinters. We know he stays a mile. Whether he will thrive over the HK Derby trip of 2000m is another matter altogether.
Moore stars on recovery mission
Beauty Generation's grip on the title of world's best miler looks increasingly shaky after a third consecutive defeat in the HK Mile and Moore now faces the task of ensuring his stable star doesn't follow various local greats who ended as pale shadows of their former selves.
An excuse has emerged for Aethero's anticlimactic third in the HK Sprint and Moore is eyeing a return to G1 company sooner rather than later.
Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Moore conceded that "it might be the age factor kicking in" with Beauty Generation but no talk of retirement will be entertained until he contests the Stewards' Cup over a mile next month.
Meanwhile, Moore reports that Aethero, who spiked a fever straight after his third at 1.5 in the HK Sprint, will be be back in full training shortly with a view to tackling Beat The Clock and Hot King Prawn again in the Centenary Sprint Cup.
Britannia fourth Awe steps out for phase two
A familiar former British face stepped out for his first HK barrier trial under Moore's care at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning.
Awe made good progress for William Haggas in the first half of 2019, winning off a mark of 88 at Newmarket before finishing fourth up the unfavoured centre off 94 in the Britannia at Royal Ascot.
The Britannia has become something of a HK catwalk in recent years, with California Whip (ex Chief Whip), Limitless (ex Defrocked) and Simply Brilliant (ex Senator) all running well over the straight Ascot mile before showing smart form in their new home.
Moore's horses are seldom asked to do too much in their early trials but Awe, who has retained his old name for phase two of his career, showed clear signs of promise in passing the post third in a 1200m AW spin under Neil Callan.