A large contingent of international horses have converged on Hong Kong for this fabulous card and the HKJC should be congratulated on attracting such a deep field in the QEII, plus the world’s highest rated sprinter, Santa Ana Lane, in the Chairman’s Sprint, and of course their own champion and world’s highest rated miler, Beauty Generation in the Champions Mile.
Oisin Murphy makes the trip back to Hong Kong as do other world class riders Hugh Bowman, James Mcdonald and Japanese veteran, the ever popular Yutaka Take. The action will be live on Sky Sports Racing with all the action covered, and hopefully including a few winning selections from myself, here on the At The Races website.
My next best (NB) on the card is BEAT THE CLOCK, who runs in race six, the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (8.20am) over the 6f.
The Australian horse Santa Ana Lane arrives here as the highest rated sprinter in the world on the back of four G1 wins in the last twelve months including an emphatic victory in the T J Smith at Randwick last time out.
He follows the same path as Chautauqua did when winning this race in 2016, however, the locals are very tough to beat in this with Chautauqua the only raider to have won the race since its inception in 1994.
Santa Ana Lane has a good opportunity to buck that trend, and the draw in 10 probably isn’t as big a conundrum as it usually would be over the 6f trip as like Chautauqua, he runs his best races when held up, although maybe not quite to the same extent as the old grey marvel.
The Aussie raider meets a couple of talented locals in Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock, along with Rattan who surprisingly beat the pair last time out, and based on so many top rated international sprinters (Blue Point springs to mind) being turned over by the locals in the big Group 1 Hong Kong sprints, I think it may pay to go with home advantage.
Both Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock meet Rattan 5lb better off here, and even if the latter runs to the same level he did last time, that along with a wide draw should be enough for the form to be turned around.
Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock are old sparing partners having met many times for varying results, including when second and third (respectively) in this race last year. However, Beat The Clock, the younger of the two, has got the better of the argument in their last two meetings and it could just be he has improved enough that he is now the one to beat, albeit Mr Stunning is an incredibly honest and talented horse at this level.
Both will go forward here and could possibly be joined by the Japanese mare Nac Venus, who is somewhat of an unknown quantity, but has won at Group 3 level back home, but she has been turned over in all four spins in Group 1 company.
Rattan may also press forward but has a wide draw (9) to contend with. However, there isn’t the manic speed we often see in major Group 1 sprints in Hong Kong on and this will work out well for the selection who should go very close to making it win number two at the top level.
My each-way (EW) selection on the card is EMINENT who runs in race eight, the Group 1 FWD QEII Cup (9.40am) over 10f.
This is a terrific renewal of the contest with the older horses headed by Hong Kong Vase winner Exultant, plus the Japanese mare Lys Gracieux, who was runner up to Exultant in the Vase, and the selection is the ex-Martyn Meade inmate, Eminent. Plus, we have the leading four olds Dark Dream, Waikuku and Furore.
Furore was last seen winning the Derby when he had the other two in behind, and I have no doubt they all have bright futures, but at set weights they may find a few of the higher rated older horses a little bit too classy at this stage of their careers.
Beauty Generation apart, Exultant has been the horse of the season for mine and deserves plenty of respect in the race. He’s likely to go off a warm favourite with the local punters, and it’s a major positive that Zac Purton is once again on board as he’s been responsible for a couple of ‘rides of the season’ on the Tony Cruz inmate.
As such we should secure a decent each-way price about Eminent who brings some serious European form to the contest from his 3yo days when he was a luckless fourth (one spot behind Cracksman) in the 2017 Derby and two starts later when he hit a career peak, dotting up in a Group 2 at Chantilly against the likes of Brametot, Recoletos, Avilius and Salouen.
He never showed his best form during his 4yo campaign and after a lengthy spell he went to Australia under the care of Olympic gold medal winning equestrian rider Sir Mark Todd. He made his return to racing in the Group 1 Ranvet at Rosehill and ran an absolute belter from the front when runner up to old sparring partner Avelius (second to Cracksman 2017 Prix Niel).
The two things that impressed the most about the run was the fact he obviously needed the hit out after a seven-month layoff, and it was on heavy ground, which he does not enjoy.
He then lined up in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes to take on Winx but never got involved after the earplugs sent him to sleep. Having spoken to both Sir Mark Todd and James McDonald whilst in Sydney, they were adamant he had come on plenty leading into the Queen Elizabeth and whilst neither were bullish about their chances against Winx, it was obvious they expected him to be right there in behind her fighting for second best.
Having given the earplugs a ceremonial burning, I expect Eminent to bounce back to his very best here. Provided the rain stays away he should have everything he requires to show his best, good ground, flat track and 10f going right-handed, which is exactly the same set up he had a Chantilly. He’ll look to go forward here along with Time Warp and Glorious forever.
It remains to be seen what Purton will do on Exultant as he rightfully tends to let race pace dictate the tactics, but either way a switched on Eminent will sit in front of the favourite and provided the ground is good or better, he’ll take plenty of pegging back now that he has a couple of runs under his belt.
My best bet (NAP) on the card is STYLING CITY who runs in race 10, the Class 2 FEW Insurance Elite Handicap (10.50am) over 6f.
The John Moore 3yo finished third in behind California Fortune and Full Of Beauty over course and distance last time out, and both of those re-oppose again. So, it does beg the question, why can selection turn the form around here?
Obviously, he’s better off at the weights; 4lb with Full Of Beauty and 2lb with California Fortune, once the 5lb claim of his rider is engaged and taken into consideration. However, California Fortune is drawn in 13 and it will be no easy task to get across and make all like he did last time, whilst Full Of Beauty disappointed as an odds-on favourite after having the run of the race last time, something that cannot be said for Styling City, who met with plenty of trouble in the run.
His troubles began four furlongs from home when he was (quote) ‘severely checked’ away from heels off another runner and then was crowded at the two-furlong mark. All things considered, he did well to be beaten only two lengths, and it’s worth noting Zac Purton has elected to keep the partnership intact.
Last time out he drew in gate one and that ended up working against him, but from stall seven, which will give Purton more options, the selection should be a tough nut to crack.
Beauty Generation, if running to form will be winning race seven comfortably, The FWD Chairman’s Mile at 900am, and will be priced up accordingly. However, a bit like watching some of the greats of the turf, you don’t always have to have an investment to enjoy the show.
The champion galloper from the John Moore yard will be looking to make it nine wins on the bounce and there is nothing on form that can beat him, but if you are looking for some sort of play I’d suggest the straight forecast with Singapore Sling who ran well enough in defeat behind Beauty Generation last time out.
Tim's Best Bets:
8.20am SHA TIN (Race 6)
BEAT THE CLOCK (NB)
9.40am SHA TIN (Race 8)
10.50am SHA TIN (Race 10)
STYLING CITY (NAP)
BETTING ON HONG KONG RACING
Punters can bet into the Hong Kong pools online through Betfred.com .