Hong Kong Diary

We look forward to Douglas Whyte’s final night at Happy Valley, review the Centenary Vase and nominate a well-handicapped horse.

  • Tuesday 29 January
  • Blog
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WHYTE PREPARES FOR FINAL VALLEY RIDE

It’s been a week of major stories on the Hong Kong circuit, starting with the news of Douglas Whyte’s impending retirement from the saddle and also including a 1200th training success for Tony Cruz and a spectacular Sha Tin four timer for the upwardly mobile Frankie Lor.

Whyte’s spectacular riding career will be honoured during his final night in the saddle at Happy Valley on Wednesday and he now seeks to emulate Cruz, himself a legendary Hong Kong rider before going on to be even more prolific as a trainer.
 
That said, the latest big win for Cruz came as a result of one of the more bizarre big-race battles seen at Sha Tin in recent years…..

TIME WARP IN LIMBO AFTER LATEST DEFEAT

Cruz spotted long ago that Time Warp tends to drop the lot if the whip comes out and that he has to dominate to be seen to best advantage.
 
His good days are very good – as evidenced by two G1 scores last season – but his bad ones are becoming increasingly frequent and he dropped away tamely in Sunday’s Centenary Vase having been unable to lead.
 
Cruz is a past master at forgiving such flops and looking to the next big target but Time Warp is looking more and more like a one-trick pony. If he gets his own way he’s very dangerous. But if he’s pressured in any way the cupboard tends to be bare.

EXULTANT IS OUT OF THE SHADOWS – BUT IS HE OFF TO DUBAI?

For long enough, Exultant played third fiddle behind Pakistan Star and Time Warp among Cruz’s middle distance stars.
 
However, he came of age when landing the G1 Hong Kong Vase in December and swept from last to first to land another Vase in thrilling fashion on Sunday.

There’s no question that the former Irish Guineas third (when known as Irishcorrespondent) was aided by a molten gallop which saw the front-running grey Pingwu Spark go through the first 1000m in a little over 58.5s.
 
Having deserted old ally Time Warp, Zac Purton merely bided his time in Exultant, who is now the second highest rated horse in Hong Kong behind Beauty Generation and could head for the Sheema Classic at Meydan after he takes on Time Warp again in the Hong Kong Gold Cup next month.

GLORIOUS SUFFERS RARE OFF DAY

Glorious Forever was another to disappoint in the Centenary Vase, beating only big brother Time Warp home under a disappointed Silvestre de Sousa, and he was another to suffer from chasing such a frenetic gallop.
 
It’s been argued that he is another who has to lead to produce a peak performance, but that doesn’t quite square with the fact that he broke Time Warp’s 2000m track record from a stalking position last summer.
 
Either way, Glorious Forever is another who will be Hong Kong Gold Cup-bound. And his overall record suggests that this setback shouldn’t be held against him.

GVN READY TO CELEBRATE AGAIN WITH EXCITING BIG PARTY

Doors will open for other riders if de Sousa elects to return to the UK when his current Hong Kong deal ends next month and Grant Van Niekerk could be in the right place to capitalise.

The 27-year-old South African admits that his first HK campaign has been challenging but 17 winners represents a solid start and he has one of the most exciting horses in town to look forward to in the shape of Big Party.

The handsome grey has left a big impression in winning two of his three starts for Lor and caught the eye again under GVN at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning when breezing clear of a useful rival in a barrier trial.

He won’t be any great price when he turns out again but the evidence is building to suggest that his current rating of 74 still underestimates Big Party’s ability by quite a margin.

Hong Kong Diary
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