Hong Kong Diary

Hong Kong racing is counting down to one of its biggest weekends of the year. Three G1 contests will make Sha Tin the centre of attention this Sunday but Happy Valley takes the spotlight this Wednesday for an eight-race card covered live on Sky Sports Racing.

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VW LOOKING MORE LIKE A PORSCHE AFTER SECOND SHA TIN SUCCESS

Hong Kong’s big guns are preparing to test themselves against global stars on Champions Day this Sunday but much of the talk at Sha Tin on Sunday was of a sprinter who is on the fast track in more ways than one.

Trainer Ricky Yiu has had plenty of fast horses – including the exceptional Sacred Kingdom – and was reluctant to go overboard when Voyage Warrior bolted up on his debut last month.

However, Yiu was happy to cast caution aside after the three-year-old cruised home again in a Class 3 dash, making comparisons with his four-time HK champion sprinter after Voyage Warrior had stopped the clock only a length or so shy of Sacred Kingdom’s 2007 track record for 1000m.

Before getting carried away, it should be noted that Voyage Warrior’s time of 54.89s was aided by a fresh tailwind.

That said, he is clearly one of the hottest young prospects in town and Yiu is confident that he can stretch out and prove fully effective over 1200m in due course.

HARLEY GRADUALLY MOVING THROUGH THE GEARS

No top jockey wants to be a one-hit wonder but Martin Harley didn’t mind at Happy Valley last Wednesday night when guiding General Iron to a 28-1 success on his sole ride of the night.

The veteran sprinter was breaking a losing sequence of 37 stretching back to 2015 but Harley feels he is gradually getting better chances and now has three winners and six places from 61 rides since starting a three-month HK contract in February.

For what it’s worth, Harley’s three HK successes since February 7th have yielded more winning prize money (around 260,000 sterling) than his 34 winners collected during the entire British 2018 Turf season.

Further good news followed for the Irishman on Thursday when it was announced that his deal has been extended until the end of the Hong Kong season in mid-July and he is on deck for six of the eight races at this Wednesday’s Valley fixture.

FRUSTRATED AND FRANKIE THE KEY PLAYERS IN FIERY SPRINT

Harley looks up against it on Bear Again in the Seoul Handicap (3.50 GMT) in a race which will probably revolve around two bang-in-form sprinters and one very interesting newcomer to HK racing.

Dream Come True is very speedy and drawn to attack in stall one after a game course and distance win under Zac Purton but the champion jockey appears to have jumped ship.

The ship he’s jumped aboard is topweight Yee Cheong Baby, who was useful in Australia and has left a strong impression in winning a couple of morning trials, most recently when leaving some fair horses for dead over 1200m at the Valley.

Trainer Jimmy Ting is hoping his highly promising three-year-old can lead, but defying a mark of 80 first time out in HK is tough and an early duel could set things up nicely for the highly progressive Frustrated.

Frankie Lor’s gelding has been on a roll over the Valley’s tight, turning 1000m track and impressed both to the eye and on the clock when bounding clear here four weeks ago.

An 11lb hike was only to be expected on the back of that success but Frustrated still looks well treated from a mark of 70 and should be tough to beat again with useful 5lb claimer Victor Wong aboard.

FORMER HAGGAS WINNER BLOOMS – AT 166-1!

Harley’s success last Wednesday came on a very rare night when HK’s two most famous riders –  Purton and Joao Moreira – both drew a blank.

Umberto Rispoli continued his recent good run with a late swoop in the finale aboard French recruit Rickfield, while Derek Leung drove the admirable Turin Redstar (formerly Munro for Ralph Beckett) to a deserved success in Class 2 company.

South African rider Grant Van Niekerk also made the headlines with a double aboard Bonito in the opener and The Full Bloom in the featured Hong Kong Rugby Union Cup.

The latter was known as Grey Morning when bolting up in a Musselburgh maiden for William Haggas in 2015. Though nothing special, he has paid his way with five wins in HK – and anyone who kept the faith for his latest success was paid out at the rewarding odds of 166-1!

Hong Kong Diary
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