Martin Harley makes his Hong Kong debut in front of over 90,000 racegoers on Chinese New Year Raceday at Sha Tin on Thursday and we have all the latest ahead of the card.
Harley on a very different street as Chinese New Year dawns
The Year of the Pig is marked in Hong Kong this Thursday with a massive crowd and one of the biggest betting days in the calendar.
History suggests there will be more than 90,000 people present for Chinese New Year Raceday at Sha Tin in the New territories and upwards of 12,000 people watching and punting remotely from Happy Valley half an hour away on Hong Kong Island.
In other words, around one per cent of Hong Kong's entire population will go racing on the last of three consecutive public holidays and they won't be shy about playing the pools.
Recent evidence suggests total turnover on the day will be in excess of £170m and there is plenty to note from an international standpoint.
Martin Harley has the first ride of a short-term contract aboard Spring Win in the 7.05. Silvestre de Sousa is back for eight rides after a short trip home due to suspension, while several familiar British and Irish horses step out in some of the better races on the card.
More poised for Lucky start in CNY Cup
Only six line up for the featured Chinese New Year Cup (live on Sky Sports Racing at 8.05) and several have questions to answer.
Last year's runner-up Jolly Banner has been raised 7lb for a shock win over 1000m and could find things tricky, while California Whip hasn't been firing of late. Likely front runner Regency Bo Bo will need a soft lead to beat Class 1 rivals, while Solar Patch has clear potential but will need to be sharp having been off since last July.
Which leaves old rivals Morethanlucky and What Else But You, who have already met three times this season.
What Else But You got the better of it over a mile on unusually soft ground in the Chevalier Cup in November, but Morethanlucky proved stronger in both meetings over 1400m including when the pair finished second and fourth behind high-class Conte in a G3 here last month.
Morethanlucky has improved tremendously since joining Frankie Lor, winning five times while progressing from a rating of 53 to 103. He has excellent early speed, a valuable asset in a small field, and the ability to get first run in the home straight could be significant.
Ex-Irish Vincy one to note with Purton back aboard
Joao Moreira has a couple of tough barriers to overcome if he's to continue his recent hot streak this Thursday.
Unbeaten Full Of Beauty has drawn 11 of 12 in the 7.35 and, with speedy rivals like Blitzing and Sparkling Dragon in opposition, he seems very unlikely to secure the sort of easy lead which marked his latest success.
Honest Way and Top Score could make a mark at much longer odds if the race sets up for holdup horses, while Moreira is way out west in the finale having been drawn 14 of 14 on dual course winner Follow Me.
John Size's gelding will need to be progressing fast to defy an 8lb hike from there, especially with dangerous rivals like Vincy in opposition.
This gelding progressed very well for Michael Halford, bolting up at the Curragh in the summer of 2017. He's shaped very well in two HK starts for Frankie Lor and the step up to 1600m with Purton back aboard are additional points in his favour.
Exciting Waikuku takes another step on Derby trail
Harley will be formally introduced to the local media in the Jockey Club Clubhouse at Sha Tin on Friday morning but only after some of Hong Kong's heavyweights go through their paces in a series of star-studded barrier trials.
Local superstar Beauty Generation is on deck in the first trial over 1000m on turf along with Pakistan Star and Beauty Only, while fellow G1 winners Beat The Clock and Glorious Forever limber up on the AW in the second along with ultra-progressive G3 winner Simply Brilliant.
Waikuku contests trial two with a much lower profile than those mentioned but the former John Oxx galloper was most impressive when storming clear in Class 2 company last month and this looks another step on a road that could end up with a tilt at the Derby on March 17th.
Fire And Gold stands out for Feng Shui followers
The belief in luck is powerful among HK punters and the ancient art of Feng Shui - the ability to live in harmony with your environment - has also been under the spotlight in the racing section of the South China Morning Post this week.
Feng Shui master Lee Shing-chak relies on the five basic elements of gold, wood, water, fire and earth in his studies for Thursday's card and tells the SCMP's Sam Agars that the omens look good for numbers 7, 2, 6 and 1.
So putting all that together, where do we look?
Step forward Fire And Gold, number one in the third race over seven furlongs after finishing seventh last time out. It couldn't happen. Or could it?