Hong Kong Diary

Hong Kong racing switches to Saturday this week for a ten-race Sha Tin card featuring several valuable handicaps covered live on Sky Sports Racing. Joao Moreira and Zac Purton both have strong chances as usual but a couple of less familiar names could also make a mark on the last Hong Kong card before Christmas.

  • Friday 20 December
  • Blog
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ISLAND CAN SHINE IN PEARCE MEMORIAL

One of Hong Kong racing's most famous families is honoured at Sha Tin on Saturday with the running of the Pearce Memorial Challenge Cup at 7.20.

The race was named for Tam Pearce, a former HKJC chairman killed when fighting Japanese aggression in 1941, and also commemorates his late son John, who owned high-class British horses including Arcadian Heights and Derby runner-up Dragon Dancer.

The market will point to a duel between Joao Moreira and Zac Purton, with the former on multiple course and distance winner Beauty Applause and the latter partnering Computer Patch after a very promising debut last Sunday.

And the market may well be correct, but don't be surprised if Island Shine goes well at much longer odds for bang-in-form trainer Ricky Yiu and South African rider Grant Van Niekerk.

This Aussie winner caught the eye on his Hong Kong debut last month, duelling with Beauty Applause for a long way before fading into fourth, and now has a 15lb pull for being beaten just under two lengths.

Island Shine didn't build on that at Happy Valley three weeks ago but he did show plenty of speed again and this could well be the day that sees him take a sizeable step forward.

TALENT ON DISPLAY WITH YEUNG BACK ABOARD

Saturday's most valuable event at Sha Tin features a useful former British winner who has thrived in Hong Kong of late.

Glorious Dragon worked his way to a mark of 101 when known as Stephensons Rocket for Ed Walker and opened his HK account for Tony Millard with a willing success over 1800m at Happy Valley recently.

A 5lb rise shouldn’t stop him running well again in the £200,000 Beas River Handicap at 8.25 but High Rev and Not Usual Talent also have plenty to recommend them in a wide open race.

High Rev finished third behind Glorious Dragon at the Valley, coming home strongly having been left poorly placed from a high draw and leaving the impression that he’s still on a very fair mark.

Not Usual Talent steps up in trip with the capable Keith Yeung back aboard after three runs at around a mile this season. He’s yet to reproduce his very best this term but got no luck in running here two weeks ago and can do much better granted smoother sailing.

MORE OF THE SAME AS LUCKY BIDS TO DEFY HEFTY HIKE

Not many horses win impressively enough to earn a 14lb hike from the Hong Kong handicapper but one such lines up in Saturday's Class 3 Long Valley Handicap at 7.50 and Lucky More will be a warm order to defy the hike under Purton.

Danny Shum's gelding was sent off at 1.5 for his debut and burned off dual subsequent winner Flying Genius with ease only to run green and falter as the fast-finishing Duke Wai charged late.

Duke Wai has gone in again from a 7lb higher mark, while Lucky More earned that 14lb rise by blitzing clear of Class 4 rivals over course and distance four weeks ago.

Those two wins were gained in contrasting styles, Duke Wai coming home powerfully having been a little sluggish again early, Lucky More showing brazen speed from start to finish with no sign of immaturity this time around.

It's clear Duke Wai can produce a very potent finish, but Lucky More uncoiled a quickfire 22.35s final split of his own. And the fact that he skipped away with his head in his chest suggests that he's still potentially very well treated from a mark of 69.

PICCONE IS HK'S LATEST FRENCH CONNECTION

A Christmas shuffle of the Hong Kong jockey pack is under way with good news for a Frenchman and bad news for another Italian.

Umberto Rispoli left for California on Monday bemoaning a lack of loyalty, while fellow countryman Alberto Sanna is also on the way out after picking up a lengthy ban for failing to ride a horse on its merits at Sha Tin last month.

Aussie youngster Regan Baylis will return to Melbourne for the new year but French rider Tony Piccone will help fill the gaps when he arrives on a two-month licence starting on New Year's Day.

Piccone is older than several recent imports at 32 and comes recommended by fellow French rider Alexis Badel with 760 winners to his credit. Four have come at G1 level including two for British handlers, namely Harry Dunlop's Robin of Navan (Criterium de Saint-Cloud) and Karl Burke's Prix Morny winner Unfortunately.

VALLEY THE VENUE FOR 2020 FINALE

The Happy Valley meeting lost due to concerns about public safety in September will now take place on July 15th next year.

Sha Tin normally plays host to the season finale but the curtain will come down on the 2019-2020 season a few days later than expected on a Wednesday night at the city track instead.

A commitment to hosting Royal Ascot’s World Pool has put paid to suggestions that the Valley card cancelled in November could find a new home in June 2020.

Instead, it has been decided that the best way to service the needs of Hong Kong’s horse population is by continuing with nine-race Valley cards and adding an extra race to certain Sha Tin weekend fixtures.

Hong Kong Diary
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