Hong Kong Diary

Things are moving fast as the effects of COVID-19 ripple around the racing world. Hong Kong remains a potential model for what Britain and Ireland might expect in the coming weeks but racing goes on with severe crowd restrictions and Sky Sports Racing will screen an eight-race card from Happy Valley on Wednesday.

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Moreira grounded as isolation rules tighten

Joao Moreira's dreams of a winner on Dubai World Cup night have been dashed by a ruling that anyone arriving in HK (other than from Macau, Mainland China and Taiwan) will have to undergo a 14-day self isolation from Thursday onwards.

Joao Moreira

Moreira would have to miss up to five subsequent HK fixtures if he went to the UAE – not an option given his HKJC role - but Ryan Moore is poised to step in for the Brazilian aboard HK raiders Big Time Baby (Golden Shaheen) and Elusive State (Godolphin Mile) at Meydan a week on Saturday.

Opportunity knocks as hit-and run stars stay home

The weighing room for this Sunday's Hong Kong Derby will have a very different feel than expected as locally-based jockeys step in to replace international colleagues who can no longer fulfil their intended bookings.

Neil Callan

Moreira's fellow Brazilian Vagner Borges replaces Jamie Spencer on live outsider Super Oasis as he seeks his first HK winner, while 25-year-old local boy Matthew Poon steps in for veteran Aussie Brett Prebble aboard former Goodwood Listed winner Private Secretary and Neil Callan has picked up the ride on Columbus County for Caspar Fownes.

Whyte feels Golden is in yellow as Derby day beckons

Leading Derby contenders Golden Sixty and More Than This galloped on Tuesday morning under their big-race riders, with Vincent Ho reporting the former "felt normal, quite relaxed" and Zac Purton describing the latter as "a very casual horse who doesn't need to be doing anything flash in the mornings."

Douglas Whyte

Meanwhile, HK legend Douglas Whyte, who rode three Derby winners before turning to training last year, has no doubt that Golden Sixty deserves to be a strong favourite for Sunday's £2m showdown. "Horses with Golden Sixty's amazing turn of foot are few and far between," he said. "He's definitely the one wearing the yellow jersey."

Expansion plans on hold

HK owners can now go racing again whether or not they have a runner after attendance restrictions were eased slightly last weekend but concern over the growing number of cases of infection being imported from abroad have put paid to plans to allow more people at Sha Tin on Derby day.

"You have to have the agility to make changes if necessary and we agree with government that further opening will have to be delayed for at least two weeks," said HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges

. "We will also have discussions with licensed people about how we can further strengthen our bubble so that nothing happens here. It is a real concern."

Moore makes merry as stars go on trial

HK's most decorated trainer John Moore has had to withdraw his main Derby hope Enjoying due to a heart murmur but the veteran handler celebrated his 70th birthday on Tuesday by taking his two biggest stars to the morning barrier trials.

John Moore

Dual Horse of the Year Beauty Generation looked in good shape winning his heat, while star sprinter Aethero looked back on track in bounding clear, and both will return to race action on April 5th to limber up for G1 assignments on Champions Day three weeks later.

Hong Kong Diary
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