This week we have something a little different for you all and instead of picking you a few losers from the United Kingdom we probably have losers from Hong Kong instead.
At this time of year, I struggle my way to my favourite racing destination, a venue where the people love their racing and the Hong Kong Jockey Club make everything as easy as possible for both the media and the punters/racegoers with enough information to explode your brain.
I have no wish to bang on about bookmakers and how they suck the life out of British racing in one way or another, but in my opinion they do, but I can say that with a Tote style monopoly based on a percentage of turnover taken out of the pools, the concept is to encourage you to take an interest. Everything here is open and above board, gallops are timed, barrier trial televised, and if a horse breaks wind when it shouldn’t, it’s all over the news! OK so that is a slight exaggeration, but what they have done is managed to shed the seedy image still evident to some in the UK and made a multi-billion pound industry respectable, and if the right people are reading this, the BHA for example, can they please send someone to talk to the HKJC to ascertain where we are going wrong?
On to the racing and naturally, with a couple of Class Two handicaps topping the card at Haydock this weekend and a Listed race at Leicester all our best horses decided the multi million pound offerings at Sha Tin were best ignored for some obscure reason – and owners whine about the lack of prize money, give me strength.
We do have one horse to mention when the ex-Martyn Meade trained Eminent takes in the FWD QEII Cup over 2000 metres. A strange story, the son of the amazing Frankel finished fourth to Wings Of Eagles in the 2017 Derby, one place and three-quarters of a length behind the excellent Cracksman and ahead of Benbatl at odds of only 5/1. A win at Deauville and an Irish Champion Stakes third followed in his three-year-old season but nothing after that saw him head off “down under” for a crack at the better Australian prize money.
A good second at Rosehill promised plenty but first time ear muffs proved an unmitigated disaster at Randwick in a race best forgotten, and he is back on the comeback trial here for New Zealander Sir Mark Todd, better known for Olympic Eventing medals than racehorses but responsible for an Oaks winner back home in New Zealand and a renowned horseman. Based at Marlborough, I did get the feeling this was all a bit rushed with regard to Sir Mark getting a UK training licence and I will freely confess I was confused and bemused in one to see the horse down as a UK runner with a trainer I had never heard of.
He clearly has a touch of class about him on a going day, but he has a poor draw for a possible front runner in a race of this magnitude, and although I will be delighted to be proved wrong, this all seemed a bit of a rushed preparation and I will look elsewhere for the winner.
Deirdre (JPN) on the All Weather track on Friday morning, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
With three Group Ones on the card at perhaps the best racecourse in the world, I love Chantilly but Sha Tin is so beautifully organised and provides such thrilling racing, it seems best to look at them in chronological order starting with the Chairman’s Sprint Prize at 8.20am UK time.
Six furlongs or so may well mean luck in running is essential with so little time to recover from an inconvenience, but assuming a clear round this looks all about Australian raider Santa Ana Lane if we assume he can reproduce his home form on an away track. Connections seem happy enough with his wellbeing though I have not managed to get up to the track by 3.15am to watch him working, and what I would see in the dark (plus floodlights I guess) is open to question anyway. All I can say is his Group One winning form at home looks more than enough if he has acclimatised and dull as that makes me, he would be the one I will be backing, skinny price or not.
From skinny price to almost non-existent next as the highest rated racehorse in the world, now that Winx has retired, goes to war over the mile of the FWD Champions Mile. Beauty Generation will become the highest money earner in Hong Kong history if he makes it nine in a row here and adds HK$10,260,000 to all his other winnings. Strange things happen in racing and nothing is ever guaranteed, and he does seem to have scared off the majority of the opposition in a race where it may be more sensible to sit back and just enjoy watching a horse at his very best making mincemeat of his rivals.
One race to go and one that has me confused and bemused in equal measure. As mentioned earlier I can let Eminent run without my support, and perhaps look stupid in the process, and will look elsewhere for the winner. No one would fall over in shock were Pakistan Star to win this for the second year in a row, while Exultant brings the best Hong Kong form to the table and ought to take plenty of beating. Neither can be comfortably ignored in this contest but then again, neither can the classy Deirdre, and let’s not forget she gets weight from her male rivals. Possibly left with a bit too much to do when second here in December she was fourth to Almond Eye in Dubai last month and looks an absolute picture on the track each morning and at the UK odds, I will risk backing her each way in a brilliant contest.
Santa Ana Lane 8.20am Sha Tin Sunday
Beauty Generation 9.00am Sha Tin Sunday in a win double
Deidre each way 9.40am Sha Tin Sunday