Hong Kong expert Graham Cunningham reflects on Golden Sixty's shock defeat at Sha Tin before delivering the best bets for Happy Valley on Wednesday.
“The fortress has crumbled, the record is safe!”
HK caller Mark McNamara nailed the dismount perfectly as Golden Sixty failed to match Silent Witness’s record of 17 wins in a row at Sha Tin on Sunday on a day that made several things abundantly clear.
First, some horses may be unbackable but none are unbeatable and Golden Sixty simply couldn’t overcome the twin hardship of pulling too hard from well off the pace in a slowly-run Stewards’ Cup.
Second, Zac Purton remains as sharp as ever after a horror fall in last month’s HK Sprint and his tactical nous helped pave the way for Waikuku to floor the champ.
Third, Douglas Whyte’s training career remains on an upward curve after Stronger gave him his first G1 success in a tight finish to the Centenary Sprint Cup.
And fourth, none of Sunday’s drama could disguise the fact there is plenty of room at the top in HK racing if any of the emerging four-year-old crop are cut from the right cloth.
Joao Moreira outscored Purton 4-1 on Sunday and the Brazilian holds the numerical edge with nine rides to the Aussie’s six as the big two return to Happy Valley on Wednesday.
But Purton has several strong chances among his sextet, starting with STOLZ in the opening Babington Handicap at 10.45.
Francis Lui’s gelding has gone down fighting in tight finishes behind Special M on both his HK starts and comes back for a third crack at John Size’s gelding. The fact that Purton climbs aboard for the first time is notable, as is the addition of cheekpieces, and with a 3lb pull with his old rival Stolz looks to have a lot in his favour.
Karis Teetan recorded the 500th win of his HK career at last week’s Valley meeting and the Mauritian heads to the city track with high hopes of further success aboard SPONTANEOUS in the Kotewall Handicap at 1.15.
The ‘Purton first time’ angle is in play again here with Circuit Booming, who has shown promise along with a worryingly high head carriage on both his HK starts.
Spontaneous has a different profile – and recent form figures of 888 will put some people off – but Paul O’Sullivan’s gelding has been running respectably at a higher level. He’s well handicapped now, back to the same mark he won from last spring, and it would come as no surprise to see him bounce back with a vengeance now he’s back in Class 4.
Teetan partners another interesting sprinter in the Breezy Handicap at 2.50 as California Sky has trialled like a winner waiting to happen and shaped with plenty of promise on his Sha Tin debut. Jolly Good Heart is another who should go well at a price in a fiery finale but the Conduit Handicap at 2.15 looks the best option for a third bet on the card.
Invincible Missile did File followers a good turn here on IJC night last month but a 5lb rise makes life trickier and this could boil down to another duel between Purton and Moreira.
Joao partners Oscar Glory, who ran a belter in a race that is working out well at Sha Tin last time, while Zac is back aboard his old friend Maldives, a consistent holdup horse who ran well despite an awkward trip on his latest start.
Splitting the pair isn’t easy but OSCAR GLORY has been shaping like he’s ready to win for a while now and he gets a narrow vote to get across quickly from his wide draw and set them all a target once Joao says go off the final bend.
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