A horse-by-horse guide to Saturday's Leighton Handicap at Sha Tin where dirt specialists are to the fore.
Saturday’s feature race at Sha Tin is the Leighton Handicap over an extended mile covered live on Sky Sports Racing at 9.10.
It’s a wide-open AW contest worth almost £200,000 but the draw and track position could prove very significant. Biases can come and go on any AW track but being on the pace here is seldom a hardship.
More importantly, runners in 1650m AW races at Sha Tin head quickly into the first bend. Runners drawn on the inner in stalls 1-3 have an almost one in three record of finishing placed over this trip in recent years. By contrast, fewer than one in eight of those drawn 12-14 have finished placed over the same period.
Fight Hero – One of the best dirt performers in Hong Kong and entered for the Golden Shaheen on Dubai World Cup night. Zac Purton is aboard for the first time but 7lb above his best winning mark and overall record suggests that coming from off a searching pace over 1200m is ideal.
Calculation – Former John Oxx galloper who is very useful over 1200m and this distance. Has the speed to chase the pace from stall 8 but only a career best will do if he’s to prevail in such a strong contest and stable jockey Joao Moreira appears to prefer raging Blitzkrieg.
Big Time Baby – Very familiar to British racegoers in a past life and won the Roses Stakes at York for Tom Dascombe in 2016. Sha Tin’s AW surface suits him very well but has never raced beyond 1200m and set to find his stamina ebbing away in the final 200m.
Turin Redstar – Useful as Munro for Ralph Beckett and has been very consistent in Hong Kong, showing good pace to run a string of fine races. That early pace will be essential if he is to overcome stall 14, which has supplied just one winner from its last 54 inhabitants at this trip.
Circuit Glory – Very smart in New Zealand and got the better of a good scrap with Turin Redstar at Happy Valley after a break in September. Has been freshened up since a good third on turf on his latest start and stall 3 looks ideal for his freewheeling style on a surface he handles well.
People’s Knight – Dropped back to 1200m to score here recently and has won eight races and almost £900,000 in HK. On the minus side, he was fortunate to beat Raging Blitzkrieg that day and holding that rival, let alone other dangerous foes, is no easy task from a 6lb higher mark.
Raging Blitzkrieg – Better than a HK record of 1-17 suggests and left the impression he would have won with a trouble-free run when chasing home People’s Knight here two weeks ago. Drawn wider than ideal in gate 12 but French form for Fabre suggests this longer trip could suit.
Glorious Artist – Useful for Charlie Hills under the same name and has made a very solid start to his HK career with figures of 112 on this surface and solid efforts on turf recently. Fairly drawn in stall 6 and, with trainer Frankie Lor continuing to thrive, he looks a place prospect at the least.
Go Public – Trained by a dirt maestro in Me Tsui and has been in fine fettle on the AW, winning twice and continuing in good form over 1200m in two defeats since. Missed the break when just behind Raging Blitzkrieg last time but stays 1400m and no forlorn hope at this longer trip.
Hang’s Decision – Seven wins in Hong Kong and came from a fair way back over course and distance for the latest last month with Purton up for the first time. Doesn’t have the champion jockey this time but does have a 6lb rise to contend with and that promises to make life tough.
Jolly Gene – Finished eleventh in Australia’s Derby for Andrew Balding when known as Impulsive Moment in 2014. Notched up six wins during his HK career but beaten over 20L on his reappearance and the jury is very much out as whether this surface is ideal for him.
Righteous Doctrine – Two of three wins in France came on Deauville’s Polytrack and also ran well for seventh in the French Guineas. Has shown promise in morning trials but hasn’t had a race since last August and winning Class 2 debutants in Hong Kong are rare birds.
Bear Slam – Looked smart when named Purser for John Gosden last spring – winning two useful prizes at Newmarket – only to sign off with a poor effort. Hasn’t cut much ice in three HK runs so far and hard to know what to expect for the step up in trip and switch in surface from stall 13.
Elusive State – Has looked a different horse since joining Tony Millard, as evidenced by a major weight gain and three impressive wins, the latest despite a tough trip from a wide draw. Major Dubai entries indicate the regard he’s held in and could still be ahead of the handicapper with de Sousa aboard for the first time.