HAPPY VALLEY SELECTIONS – (Wednesday December 5, 2018)
RACE 1: #10 Lucky Storm, #3 Best Effort, #5 Wonderful Tiger, #2 The Sylph
RACE 2: #4 Super Euro Star, #5 The Show, #3 Royal Chocolate, #1 Diamond Legend
RACE 3: #4 Hard Promise, #8 Naboo Star, #11 Gouten Of Garo, #5 Energetic Class
RACE 4: #3 Mr Right, #1 General Iron, #7 Royal Racer, #11 Godspeed
RACE 5: #2 Good For You, #6 Marvel Joy, #4 Namjong Invincible, #8 Ishvara
RACE 6: #3 Country Star, #5 Blocker Dee, #10 Back In Black, #1 Eptimum
RACE 7: #4 Midnite Promise, #7 Positively High, #9 Curling Luxury, #1 Sparkling Sword
RACE 8: #12 Beauty Day, #2 Super Form, #7 Faithful Trinity, #4 Lucky Girl
RACE 9: #5 Red Warrior, #8 Giant Turtle, #2 Victory Boys, #3 Super Chic
PREAMBLE: LONGINES INTERNATIONAL JOCKEYS CHAMPIONSHIP
The LONGINES International Jockeys Championship (IJC) brings 12 of the world’s best riders together around one of the world’s most iconic tracks, Happy Valley.
This year, eight jockeys from all over the globe – Hugh Bowman (last year’s LONGINES World’s Best Jockey), Ryan Moore (representing the UK), Silvestre de Sousa (UK), Mickael Barzalona (France), Colin Keane (Ireland), Christophe Lemaire (Japan), Yutaka Take (Japan) and Javier Castellano (US) – will take on four of the best that the Hong Kong riding roster has to offer.
Reigning Hong Kong champion Zac Purton, who is defending his IJC crown this year, is joined by Mauritian rider Karis Teetan, currently second in the Hong Kong jockeys’ premiership in his sixth year in the jurisdiction. Two homegrown jockeys will also make their debut in the prestigious event, with Vincent Ho and Matthew Poon flying the Bauhinia flag as they tackle some of the world’s premier horsemen.
The LONGINES International Jockeys Championship takes in races four, five, seven and eight, with the winning rider in each race receiving 12 points, the jockey aboard the second-placed horse receiving six points and the rider on the third-placed galloper receiving four points.
Whoever has the most points after the four legs is deemed the winner, taking home a cool HK$500,000 for a night’s work.
RACE 1: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA HANDICAP
#10 Lucky Storm trialled well at Conghua before beginning his season with a fourth at Sha Tin. He’s disappointed in a number of starts since then, but he’s had excuses every time. He’s his own worst enemy but if he can get into a rhythm somewhere near the speed, he can score a first victory. #3 Best Effort is yet to place from five Happy Valley starts, but he appears well-placed in this event. He arguably should have won last time out and Caspar Fownes is sure to have him cherry ripe for this. #5 Wonderful Tiger saved plenty of ground last time, only to just find Dutch Windmill a neck too good. Clearly, though, a win is coming shortly. #2 The Sylph is as unreliable as they come, with one win from 51 Hong Kong starts. Still, a better draw might prove the catalyst for him getting into the finish, even if a win may be too much of an ask.
RACE 2: UNITED KINGDOM HANDICAP
#4 Super Euro Star gets back down to Class 5, a grade where he boasts one win and one third from two starts. He gets back into a good barrier over this course and distance and he is capable of running them ragged under Matthew Poon. #5 The Show is racing well and is sure to be around the mark somewhere. #3 Royal Chocolate improved at his first start in Class 5 last time out. He can run another bold race here. #1 Diamond Legend can swoop from near the rear getting down to the cellar grade for the first time.
RACE 3: JAPAN HANDICAP
#4 Hard Promise ran well enough at his first start in Class 4 last time out. If he’s able to settle just off the leaders, he can score his first Hong Kong win in here, #8 Naboo Star didn’t do much on debut after overracing early, getting well back and staying there. He had trialled a treat before that effort, though, so improvement second time out can be expected. #11 Gouten Of Garo is always capable of getting into the finish of a race like this. He can’t be overlooked. #5 Energetic Class might appreciate the faster tempo of a Happy Valley 1200m. He’s worth including.
RACE 4: LONGINES INTERNATIONAL JOCKEYS CHAMPIONSHIP (HANDICAP) – 1ST LEG
The first leg of the IJC can go to Hugh Bowman aboard #3 Mr Right. He’s a Happy Valley 1000m specialist who is drawn to capitalise in gate three and he’s racing well enough to figure. It’s worth noting too that his trainer Peter Ho has a terrific record on IJC night, preparing a winner at this meeting five of the last six years – including with Mr Right in 2015, one of two winners for South African rider Gavin Lerena that handed him that year’s IJC title. #1 General Iron returned to form last time out. He isn’t the easiest horse to ride, but getting Zac Purton aboard – who has guided him to two placings from three rides – looks a major positive. #7 Royal Racer didn’t do much on debut but looks capable of improving drastically second-up under Javier Castellano. Don’t be surprised to see #11 Godspeed flashing home into the placings with his regular rider Karis Teetan legged up.
RACE 5: LONGINES INTERNATIONAL JOCKEYS CHAMPIONSHIP (HANDICAP) – 2ND LEG
#2 Good For You ran a better race last time out dropping back into Class 4. The higher grade is simply too tough for him, but he should enjoy every chance in here for American visitor Javier Castellano. #6 Marvel Joy is still yet to win from 18 Hong Kong starts but his last couple of efforts have been much better. He should enjoy every chance under Hugh Bowman. #4 Namjong Invincible has built a reputation as a dirt horse, but his turf efforts haven’t been hopeless. He has so many issues, but if he’s feeling right, he should be well-suited getting up to 1650m with Zac Purton looking for a second win on the six-year-old. #8 Ishvara is long in the tooth now but he’s at a mark where he’s capable of scoring again. He can catapult homegrown talent Matthew Poon into the placings.
RACE 6: IRELAND HANDICAP
#3 Country Star looks a horse with plenty of talent, as seen in his two wins in September and October. He was beaten by a nose last time out but it was still a run full of merit and he can continue to climb the grades. He is still a mid-season three-year-old, but Class 2 beckons before the term is out. #5 Blocker Dee has been in purgatory as of late, finding the 1200m too sharp, the 1650m too far and not really being a capable 1400m horse at Sha Tin. He’s getting down to a mark though where he should be able to get into the finish. #10 Back In Black may be heading to Class 4, but it wouldn’t surprise to see him run a strong race before he gets the drop. #1 Eptimum is worth consideration at his first run in this grade.
RACE 7: LONGINES INTERNATIONAL JOCKEYS CHAMPIONSHIP (HANDICAP) – 3RD LEG
#4 Midnite Promise has finished last, beaten a combined total of 40 lengths, at his last two starts, but he might be worth a chance in this spot with a return to Happy Valley. He has only placed here once, but that was under his jockey here, Ryan Moore, in this very same race in 2016 when the gelding was trained by Gary Ng. From the good draw, don’t be surprised to see a drastically different animal here. #7 Positively High has drawn deep but he ran well enough at his last effort. Zac Purton is a good acquisition and the raft of gear changes suggests we may see a different horse here. #9 Curling Luxury can push forward and run another bold race with Javier Castellano up. #1 Sparkling Sword is an easy horse to ride in that he will go forward and stick on dourly. He’s a chance to get Irish champion rider Colin Keane into the placings.
RACE 8: LONGINES INTERNATIONAL JOCKEYS CHAMPIONSHIP (HANDICAP) – 4TH LEG
#12 Beauty Day has not been able to emulate the deeds of his brother Beauty Flame, a G2 winner who was a multiple G1 placegetter in Hong Kong a couple of years ago. Still, he has run some nice races here and a win with no weight wouldn’t shock, with legendary Japanese hoop Yutaka Take aboard. #2 Super Form has such a strong course and distance record that he can’t be dismissed, providing Javier Castellano with another leading hope. #7 Faithful Trinity has disappointed at his last two since winning at the course and distance in September. Still, Mickael Barzalona is likely to push him forward from the wide gate and he is capable of sticking on. Gangly gelding #4 Lucky Girl is a place chance for Hugh Bowman.
RACE 9: FRANCE HANDICAP
#5 Red Warrior’s rise through the grades was stopped last time out at his first run in Class 2. Still, it was a decent enough effort and the step up to 1800m should see him resume his winning ways here. #8 Giant Turtle returns to Class 2 for the first time in three years. Back then, he was well-beaten as he began a ratings-shedding process that only ended when he reached a mark of 48, from his arrival mark of 82. Now, at a Hong Kong high of 83, he can still figure by going forward with no weight and sticking around late. #2 Victory Boys has been something of a fairytale, rising from Class 5 to Class 2 with his trademark honesty and consistency. He’s a chance yet again, as he always is these days. #3 Super Chic has found his rhythm and he can’t be overlooked.