Hong Kong – Monday’s Lunar New Year race meeting at Sha Tin will go ahead, but the fans will be locked out as the Jockey Club takes extreme measures to reduce the risk of spreading the Wuhan coronavirus.
The meeting is traditionally one of the biggest on the calendar – last year 105,716 attended across the two tracks – but only patrons with existing bookings (there are about 8,000), owners with horses running and staff will be allowed on course.
As far as the racing is concerned, Joao Moreira is hoping his decision to side with Beauty Legacy over Champion’s Way in the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m), the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, will not come back to bite him.
“It was a difficult decision but I can’t ride two horses – it could be the wrong one because Champion’s Way has been running well in strong races and there’s no doubt that he needed a couple of runs to bring his best. But I had to make a decision and I hope I didn’t make the wrong one,” the Brazilian ace said.
Moreira partnered Champion’s Way to four of his six wins last term. Beauty Legacy is already a Group 2 winner and Group 1-placed in Australia.
Moreira has three Classic Mile wins already in the bag (2014 Able Friend, 2017 Rapper Dragon, 2018 Nothingilikemore). Champion’s Way’s new partner, Karis Teetan, is seeking a first.
And victory would likely be extra sweet for the Mauritian given his unsought ejection – to be replaced by Ryan Moore – from one of the race’s leading candidates, More Than This, despite having enjoyed a three from three alliance with that horse this season.
Teetan sat on Champion’s Way for the first time when leading home Beauty Legacy (4th) in a 1200m dirt track trial on Tuesday.
“It was my first time sitting on him and he gave me a good feel actually, he’s a very strong-bodied horse, there’s lots of him underneath me and I’m looking forward to riding him in the race now,” said Teetan.
Exultant faces a weighty task in the Group 3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) as he bids for back-to-back wins in the race.
Hong Kong’s champion stayer will shoulder 60.3kg against his 10 opponents with eight of those allotted 52.2kg or less. Only Dark Dream and Time Warp sit above that figure with 54.4kg.
That prospect has left jockey Zac Purton with reservations ahead of the test, his first start since placing third in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase (2400m) on 8 December.
“It’s never easy having to carry top-weight in these races especially coming off two strong performances,” Purton said.
The Class 1 Chinese New Year Cup Handicap (1400m) is the traditional feature race at the Chinese New Year race day and a stacked field of 14 will do battle for a share of the HK$2.8 million purse, including Perfect Match who will be ridden by Alexis Badel.
“He’s done everything fine, the horse looks in great shape, he has a light weight so hopefully this helps us but he is a good horse,” Badel said.
The Danny Shum-trained gelding powered to victory last start in the Class 2 Lukfook Jewellery Cup Handicap (1400m) and is looking to make it a feature race double today.
The race also features dual South African Group 1 winner Northern Superstar (formerly Edict Of Nantes) as well as Good Standing, Fast Most Furious, Flying Thunder and Tornado Twist. – South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Jockey Club
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