Only four meetings remain in the HK racing season and every win is precious as three trainers and two riders continue their long-running chase for the championships.
Joao Moreira still trails Zac Purton after another day of near misses at Sha Tin on Wednesday, while the trainers' title remains finely poised between Ricky Yiu, Francis Lui and Tony Cruz. All the main players will be well represented again at Sha Tin on Sunday, where an eleven-race marathon gets under way runs from 5.30 right through to 10.45 on Sky Sports Racing.
Purton closing in but trainer's title still up for grabs
Here is your bi-weekly HK title race update: Moreira outscored Purton 2-1 again on Sha Tin's Wednesday card but was left to rue three seconds - two by a short head - which leave him five adrift of Purton with time running out and a suspension looming next Wednesday. In short, he needs trebles all round from now until the July 15th Season Finale to have any chance of thwarting the Aussie.
Meanwhile, the trainers' championship remains very hard to call. Lui drew level with Yiu when Thou Shall Sing won; Yiu nosed one ahead again when Irish import Precious Express popped up at 32-1; and Tony Cruz is still hovering four off the lead after winning with Beauty Angel.
Sunday will reveal more - but it looks increasingly like this long-running scrap is going down to the last day.
Express on the right track in Sunday finale
Moreira will need no reminding that Karis Teetan was the man ahead of him for all his three Wednesday seconds and the Mauritian has now outscored the Brazilian 19-10 and Purton by 19-15 over the last ten meetings.
Another full book beckons for Sunday and Teetan feels Tony Millard's Armando is his "standout" in the £230,000 finale at 10.45. The South African import went into many a notebook when finishing strongly for fourth on his HK debut over course and distance but whether he's a genuine 1200m performer remains to be seen.
The first four from Armando's first HK run all line up again and Moreira looks the man to watch aboard Lucky Express. The Aussie import failed to justify strong support on his first run in HK but showed plenty of promise after a tardy break and an impressive recent trial suggests that he has the makings of a smart young horse for champion trainer John Size.
Tango heading for HK dance floor
Cruz is already taking steps to prepare for the 2021 Hong Kong Derby and, with smart French recruit Waltham already secured, has raided the Andrew Balding academy for Berlin Tango.
The Dansili three-year-old has thrived this season, beating one Derby hope in Pyledriver at Kempton before finishing third to another in Russian Emperor at Royal Ascot, and agent Alastair Donald told the Racing Post's Tom Peacock that he has "the ideal profile for Hong Kong as he's got mile and a quarter fast ground form and has been really progressive."
Berlin Tango has a BHA mark of 110 and a Timeform rating of 116 - which makes him one of the higher rated Euro imports of recent years - and has already been gelded with a view to flying off to his new home next month.
Badel joins full time foreign legion
One of HK's most popular winter visitors is to become a full timer with the news that French star Alexis Badel has signed up to become a Club rider for the entire 2020-21 season.
Badel ended his latest HK stint with a winner on March 1st and ended a four-month stay with 26 successes worth over £3.4m in prize money. His affable nature and ability to ride light (8st 1lb) has put him on the HKJC radar as a full-time target for some while and he is expected to return to Sha Tin on August 10th with a view to clearing quarantine a full two weeks before the new season begins.
Public return marks another positive step
Owners can finally return to the races at Epsom this Saturday and HK takes another step on the road to normality on Sunday when a section of the paying public return to the track for the first time since early February.
Provided they have a prior restaurant reservation and observe all usual coronavirus protocols, between 500 and 700 extra people will be at Sha Tin as the HKJC considers options for on and off-track racing fans.
"Traceability is key so we can only get people in if they have a fixed seat," said HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges. Meanwhile, the vast majority of HK's 100 betting shops have been doing good business on non racedays with the Club "cautiously optimistic" about resuming raceday service for the final two fixtures of the season on July 12th and 15th.
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