We preview today's Happy Valley meeting in Hong Kong, live on Sky Sports Racing from 10.45 (GMT), complete with £1.3million in prize-money and some high-quality handicaps.
Thinker aiming to book Dubai ticket in Valley burn up
Today's Happy Valley card is one of the strongest of the season at the city track with nine races, well over £1.3m in prize money and some high-quality handicaps in the second half of a programme covered live on Sky Sports Racing.
Pace is the key to the Happy Valley Handicap over 1200m at 1.15. A fierce gallop is likely if California Fortune, Sea Jade and Telecom Brothers adopt their normal style, which could set things up for strong finishers like Super Hoppy and Wishful Thinker.
Super Hoppy hasn't been helping himself with tardy starts but he's well drawn in stall 1 and has Silvestre de Sousa aboard for the first time.
Wishful Thinker is another late swooper. He came from last to first in dramatic style under Alexis Badel on his sole previous visit to the Valley in December and could be bound for a tilt at the G1 Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night if all goes to plan here.
Rise High back to fighting weight after a break
Another horse with Group-race potential on the Valley card is Rise High, who returns fro a break with very solid claims in the Shan Kwong Handicap at 1.45.
This gelding completed a hat-trick on the final day of last season and looked as good as ever when third in a race which has worked out very well when last seen in November.
Trainer Caspar Fownes sent him for a spell at the HKJC's Conghua base when he started to lose weight after that race but the ex-Irish gelding has regained the pounds and has been trialling very well in recent weeks.
Fownes said: "He came good after a break last season and when he went to Conghua he put 50lb back on in a matter of weeks, which was just what I wanted to see.
"The form of his Chevalier Cup run is strong and, all going well, we've got a horse to work with for the next couple of seasons that could certainly progress into a G1 contender."
Draw could make the difference as Music bids to call the tune again
It looks as if it could be a case of big prices bar two in the closing Blue Pool Handicap at 2.50 as two of Hong Kong's most progressive young sprinters bang heads in a race where the draw and early position look set to play a notable role.
Tornado Twist has rattled off a quickfire hat-trick for John Size and Joao Moreira at Sha Tin - clocking some impressive closing splits in the process - but he tends to miss the break and stall nine poses another tricky question.
By contrast, Music Addition has drawn perfectly in stall one after a commanding success here three weeks ago.
Silvestre de Sousa should be able to secure a smooth passage from his inside gate and that could be the difference over a distance where those drawn in the inside four stalls tend to win around twice as often as those drawn in the highest four gates.
Whyte set right for switch to training
How will Douglas Whyte fare as a trainer now his epic riding career is over?
The man who won 13 consecutive titles in Hong Kong couldn't conjure up a farewell winner on his final day at Sha Tin on Sunday but played a fairly ordinary hand with typical drive, partnering two seconds and a third before being given a rousing sendoff by hundreds of fans who stayed long after the last race to say thanks and goodbye.
European history shows that star riders seldom make quite the same impact when training, but Tony Cruz made a seamless transition from the Hong Kong weighing room to the trainer's stand and it will be very surprising if Whyte doesn't follow suit.
The 47-year-old South African has the best contact book in Hong Kong and also has excellent links to Europe and Australia built up through three decades at or near the top of his profession.
Add in an upcoming tour of some of the world's most successful stables and an acute sense of what is needed to thrive in Hong Kong's intense handicap culture and it will come as a big surprise if he isn't running an elite team sooner rather than later.
Moore back in the HK big time as Conte takes on the master miler
Ryan Moore is back in Hong Kong this weekend and aiming to take down local superstar Beauty Generation when he climbs aboard the John Size's Conte for the first time in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup.
Joao Moreira has opted to ride last year's runner-up Beat The Clock in the 1400m G1 contest but Moore is well aware that the Magic Man doesn't always have the magic touch when it comes to picking the right one in major races.
Europe's leading big-race rider landed his first Hong Kong Derby last March when Moreira chose Nothingilikemore ahead of eventual winner Ping Hai Star.
Conte was put in his place by Beauty Generation in the Stewards' Cup last month but recorded his best performance yet in finishing second, while Moore will also team up with former Royal Ascot winner Gold Mount in the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup.
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