GIANT LOOKS THE ACE IN PURTON'S SUNDAY PACK
Hong Kong is far more than a two-jockey town but when the big two are in prime form there is only so much the rest of the weighing room can do about it.
Joao Moreira went four ahead of Zac Purton with a treble last Sunday but the Aussie fired back with three winners of his own at Happy Valley on Wednesday - bringing up his seasonal century with a brilliant swoop aboard Dances With Dragon in the nightcap - and the gap is down to just one ahead of Sunday's ten-race card at Sha Tin.
Mighty Giant caps a fabulous 4⃣-timer for champion jockey @zpurton! 🙌 #HKracing pic.twitter.com/92Y9XCWBWN
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 14, 2020
Moreira has ten rides to Purton's eight with a string of strong chances including Heza Beauty and Fantasy in the 8.40 and 9.10 respectively, while Purton partners one of the most interesting horses of the day when Mighty Giant bids for his fourth course and distance success in the concluding Dorset Handicap at 10.50.
Ricky Yiu's muscular chestnut has been most impressive on his last two starts and rattled off a rapid 22.27s closing split when making every yard for his latest success. A soft lead looks unlikely with several other front runners on deck but Mighty Giant doesn't have to lead and a mark of 78 still looks workable with the Yiu team remaining in fine fettle.
SHIELD NO FORLORN HOPE IN BATTLE OF THE BRITS
Antoine Hamelin’s dream start to a three-month contract continued with a debut winner at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and Hong Kong’s most recent French recruit, who notched a double on his first day last Sunday, is in demand again with nine rides on Sunday’s card.
Encore Boy is among the pick in the Cornwall Handicap at 10.15 and this highly reliable sprinter looks sure to go well in a £200,000 All-Weather contest featuring a handful of useful British imports.
Seven Heavens was useful for John Gosden a couple of years ago and is bound to attract support with Purton aboard but former stablemate Kings Shield - fifth in the 2018 St James’s Palace Stakes – makes most appeal of the Brit pack.
As a son of Scat Daddy it should come as no surprise that Kings Shield has adapted really well to the Sha Tin dirt track. The form book hints that a mile may be his best trip but he showed when worn down late here on his latest start suggests that a strongly run six furlongs could suit him just as well.
TROUBLE AHEAD AS CORONAVIRUS CRISIS CONTINUES
Hong Kong is holding its own and preserving lofty prize money levels as much of the racing world continues in lockdown but the sport faces further hardship even as coronavirus restrictions ease according to HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges.
“Our turnover continues to be very strong given that we are racing behind closed doors and the fact that international commingling was up by 35 per cent at Sha Tin last Sunday shows more and more new fans from around the world are switching their attention to our sport,” he said.
"But the near future will be very challenging in many aspects. Racing is sure to be impacted and in some countries the sport’s sustainability is under threat, with significant turnover declines which will not recover short term. Already, we have seen significant cuts in prize money, with some reductions imposed just before the running of international races, and when racing starts again this will be replicated in a lot of countries.”
AETHERO FIRES BACK WITH DOMINANT TRIAL WIN
Aethero, who blew the start and raced too freely in the Sprint Cup last month, came out of the stalls firing this time and charged clear of old rival Hot King Prawn to leave Zac Purton encouraged about his prospects in next weekend’s G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Aethero (@zpurton) cruises home with Hot King Prawn (@cavaleiro83) and D B Pin (@neilcallan78) behind him.
Sunday week's (26 April) G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize (1200m) is set to be cracker. 🔥 #HKracing pic.twitter.com/XCAer3L8he
— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) April 17, 2020
“I think it will work out to be a good thing having this extra trial,’ he said. “He showed signs that he has taken a step and if he can take a step again next week, he will be there.”
Waikuku wasn’t asked for anything serious in finishing third in his trial – and John Size is still puzzled by a recent defeat behind Beauty Generation in Group 2 company – but the Champion Trainer intends to send him in against that rival for the seventh time this season in next Sunday’s Group 1 Champions Mile.