Happy Valley: Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Luke Middlebrook, HONG KONG – Racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night after three-straight Sha Tin meetings.
Nine races will be run and the feature race is the Group 3 January Cup (1800m).
Leading jockey Joao Moreira partners Macau raider Sacred Capital in the feature event after the five-year-old finished an eye-catching fourth in the Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (1800m) in early November.
On that occasion, Sacred Capital finished two lengths astern to winner Southern Legend and Time Warp, both of whom he meets again this week.
Moreira takes over from top Macau jockey Peter Ho which has to be seen as a big plus and trainer Joe Lau says his steed is in better shape this time around.
“He’s come across better than last time. The first time everything was a bit new to him so this time, with the experience, he’s adapted better. I’m happy with him,” Lau told the SCMP.
The best bet comes in the final event with trainer Caspar Fownes and jockey Zac Purton combining with talented five-year-old Aurora Pegasus in the Class 3 1200m.
Aurora Pegasus vies for four-straight wins this week and strikes a race to do so. Luck is on his side as he has been afforded barrier 1 where he looks to get the run of the race.
Last start, the Iffraaj gelding took to Class 3 for the first time and dead-heated with consistent performer Shining Ace. The pair left a healthy gap back to third place Winning Method, who came out and won easily two starts later.
Aurora Pegasus was the run of the race in that event as the pace was hot to the 400m and most of those close to the lead speed – such as he was – faded.
Fownes returns Aurora Pegasus to the races 49 days later off the back of an easy 800m trial win at Conghua. The horse looks well and should be hard to beat against a moderate Class 3 field.
Next best is What A Legend for trainer Jimmy Ting and jockey Chad Schofield in the Class 4 1200m in Race 4, the five-year-old racing first-up after an impressive win when blinkers were applied first time at this track and distance 63 days ago
That was What A Legend’s breakthrough win at start number nine that night, though he was far from disgraced at prior runs.
Blinkers certainly seemed to have switched on the Duporth gelding as he drew well clear by 2 ¼ lengths while returning the fastest 1200m time on the night – it was a highly efficient performance.
He returns to the races off the back of a solid barrier trial performance and Schofield, from barrier 3, should get one of the runs of the race, while his main danger, the John Size-trained Noble Man, draws inside of him in barrier 2 and will give him the most work to do.
An each-way play present itself in Race 2 with Play To Win for trainer Benno Yung and jockey Derek Leung in another Class 4 1200m.
Play To Win surprised at big odds first-up at start number two for Yung after showing little at seven prior starts for trainer Michael Chang.
At two subsequent starts since that first-up victory, Play To Win has finished sixth on each occasion, however both runs have been better than their finishing position reads after he jumped from gates 11 and 12 and was ridden dead cold, still returning impressive late splits.
Play To Win comes into barrier 5 on Wednesday night where he can settle handier to the speed where he looks capable of being in the money.
Luke Middlebrook’s selections:
R2 #9 1×2
R4 #5 Win
R9 #2 Win
Race 1: Focus blinkers made the difference last run and can go on with it. Super Alliances last run suggested a win was very near but barrier 11 looks sticky. California Rad had excuses last start when racing wide without cover (read “Track Spy” for more information). Lucky Missile improving all the time with race experience. Purton jumps on. Breeders’ Sky down in class here and can surprise.
Race 2: Happy Alumni remains a maiden galloper but clearly gets a chance to win here. Loriz go on the win two starts ago and give a chance here. Play To Win changed stables recently and has improved (read “Track Spy” for more information). Shimmer And Shine has ability and should not be underestimated in this grade. Trialled well ahead of this race. Shouson drawn wide and that will make it tough but looks a chance.
Race 3: Naboo Star was an easy last start winner and must be respected again from barrier 1. Ruletheroost placed last start and looks a chance to go close to winning City Legend generally gets back in the running but dashes strongly home. Good chance in this race. Oriental Elite finished powerfully with fastest sectional time ranking last start. Polymer Luck an on pace runner who could finish in the placings.
Race 4: What A Legend has improved with in blinkers, as seen at his last start win. Can go on with it. Noble Man turned in a very nice debut run and looks to have good ability. The main danger from barrier 2. Lucky Quality video replay showed last run was very good. Shining On turned in a nice effort last run when finishing strongly. Jolly Convergence has ability and is always dangerous in this grade.
Race 5: Winning Endeavour changed stables recently and has improved. Narrowly beaten last start and will go close. Flame Lily racing in career-best form and must be rated a good chance to score again. Murray’s Partners improved when blinkers added last start. Moreira remains onboard. Dor Dor was an easy last start winner and must be respected. Everyone’s Elite has been placed last three starts, deserves a win soon.
Race 6: Sacred Capital big jockey change from last start and looks a big chance to score a Hong Kong win. Harmony Victory is capable of running a fast final 400m sectional time. Looks hard to hold out if race run to suit. Southern Legend should be highly suited by the drop back in distance and class. Time Warp dangerous frontrunner who can be hard to catch at this track and distance. Eagle Way dropping in class and will find this much easier than last start.
Race 7: Xiang Bai Qi video replay showed last run was very good. Big winning chance. World Famous finished powerfully with fastest sectional time ranking last start (read “Track Spy” for more information). Party Together last run suggested a win was very near. Will lead and give a bold sight. Monster Kaka best run to date was last start and appears to be improving. Super Elegance has been placed last two starts and deserves a win soon.
Race 8: Shining Ace nice horse who is a model of consistency and looks a chance in an open race. Ballistic King always finishes close up and must be rated a chance at this level. Should be good value with Purton jumping off. Joyful Union consistent form lately and can score here. Victoriam flew home late last start and must be respected (read “Track Spy” for more information). Winning Feeling well supported last start and won accordingly.
Race 9: Aurora Pegasus racing in career-best form and looks the bet of the night. Special Stars go on the win two starts ago and give a chance here. Flying Bonus goes well second-up from a break and won a recent trial, suggesting an improved effort is likely. Happy Warrior looked unlucky when being held up at a crucial stage last start. Victory Power last start winner who rises in class but can measure up.
Video Replay Stars
Race 1 Number 9 CALIFORNIA RAD
Had betting support at his third start last time over 1400m at Sha Tin but drew wide in stall 12 and simply had no luck in running, racing very wide early and continuing to race wide until entering the straight. Unsurprisingly he weakened in the straight to finish last, beaten 12 lengths.
Jumps from barrier 4 this week which should ensure a better run in transit and an improved effort looks likely in a race with only a few chances.
Race 2 Number 9 PLAY TO WIN
Surprised at big odds first-up when having his second start after transferring to trainer Benno Yung and has continued to race well at two subsequent starts. On each occasion, however, he has been ridden negatively because of wide draws but still returned big mid-race and late race figures to finish 3 – 3 ¾ lengths astern.
From barrier 5 it is feasible he can map handier as he did first-up, and a spot in the placings seems plausible in a moderate Class 4 contest.
Sectional Time Stars
Race 7 Number 4 WORLD FAMOUS
Has his third start for in-form trainer Ricky Yiu and last start was suggested a win was near after blinkers went on for the first time. Tracking a moderate tempo, he let down the fastest in the race over the final two furlongs to miss by a neck margin.
Race 8 Number 6 VICTORIAM
Produced a very good first-up run when dictated to by a wide barrier over 1000m, snagged back to the rear but dashing home the fastest in the race to finish second, beaten 1 ¾ lengths. The 1200m suits second-up but barrier 11, again, means luck in running.