Hong Kong Diary

The summer recess is drawing to a close and the stars of Hong Kong racing are preparing to shine again. All the action will be live on Sky Sports Racing this Sunday with some fascinating new faces eager to make their mark on a strong Season Opening card at Sha Tin.

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What would be the effect of a seven-week close season for British and Irish racing?

The question is purely academic given that it’s never going to happen but in Hong Kong it serves as a perfect opportunity for people to reset the clock and refresh the appetite for a new campaign.

Anything is possible over the next ten months – with around £130m in prize money spread across just 88 fixtures – and the six things you need to get you up to speed are as follows….

1: Beauty Generation remains the poster boy of Hong Kong racing after a perfect 2018-2019 campaign which saw him win eight from eight to establish himself firmly among the world’s elite. John Moore’s relentless front runner is back in exercise ahead of his reappearance in the Celebration Cup early in October. Moore feels his stable star is currently 30lb over his fighting weight, while Purton joked this week that “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look this fat.” But Moore will step Beauty Generation’s work up considerably in the next few weeks and, along with champion stayer Exultant, HK’s master miler will set the bar very high for budding stars like Champion’s Way and Aethero to match.

Beauty Generation

2: Zac Purton is king of the weighing room after a second successive title which saw him partner 168 winners worth an eye-watering £23m in prize money but sums things up neatly by saying that he faces “a sliding doors moment” with arch rival Joao Moreira free to roam as a Club jockey this season.

Zac Purton

The Brazilian, who was away in Japan for the first three months of last term, can ride at 8st 2lb as against Purton’s usual minimum of 8st 8lb.

“It’s unfortunate for me that Joao can ride a lot lighter than I can, which stacks the chips heavily in his favour,” says Purton. But the clinical Aussie has the best contacts book in HK and, with both men at the peak of their powers aged 36, the stage is set for a compelling duel.

3: Karis Teetan and Vincent Ho will be eager to consolidate after recording personal bests to finish third and fourth in the table with 84 and 56 winners respectively. Teetan’s dynamic style is made for Hong Kong, while Ho is still improving and showed his skills to fine effect in Britain recently through a successful spell with Mark Johnston and a Shergar Cup success for Marcus Tregoning on Power of Darkness.

However, nothing stands still for long in Hong Kong and the arrival of two new shooters will make competition for rides even more intense.

4: Blake and Lyle are the new shooters in question and the HKJC’s transfer business has snared a proven Aussie star and one of the most precociously talented youngsters to emerge from South Africa in many moons.

Blake Shinn was a precocious talent himself – winning the 2008 Melbourne Cup aboard Viewed aged just 20 – and arrives in Hong Kong with more than 20 other G1 successes to his credit. Renowned for his meticulous planning, Shinn has clearly networked well and his eight rides on opening day include Seasons Bloom, who bids to repeat his 2017 success in the featured HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup.

Lyle Hewitson and Blake Shinn
Lyle Hewitson and Blake Shinn meet the media at Sha Tin this week.

5: Lyle Hewitson’s rapid progress in the saddle stalled briefly when his parents insisted on him finishing his school exams but he passed those tests with flying colours before going on to become the first apprentice to become champion jockey in South Africa since Michael Roberts in 1973.

The 21-year-old, who secured his second title with 219 winners recently, displays unusual composure for one so young and takes heart from the fact that the skillset needed to thrive in South Africa often transfers well to HK.

“This opportunity was something I couldn’t turn down,” he says. “I’ve been given a lot of advice from jockeys that have ridden here and I think they have paved the way for someone like me to continue that trend.”

6: Hong Kong training legend John Moore spent part of his off season hurtling around Goodwood’s racetrack in various flash sports cars but will be back to more usual horsepower at Sha Tin on Sunday when Styling City represents him in the feature event at 7.00.

Moore pushed John Size all the way to the final day in the race to be champion last term and clearly feels Styling City is capable of giving him a flying start to what will be the last season of his stellar HK career.

“He’s well weighted, he trialled well and it’s all systems go,’ said Moore. “There’s not an abundance of speed in the race so that should suit him down to the ground. I think he’ll be close.”

Hong Kong Diary
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