We take a look at Saturday's card from Sha Tin where Joao Moreira and Zac Purton again go head-to-head.
Tornado poised to storm home again
Frost and snow may be taking a toll on British and Irish racing at the moment but Hong Kong racing could be hit by a Tornado and a Hurricane this weekend.
Saturday’s Sha Tin fixture features the usual number of head to heads between Joao Moreira and Zac Purton and the Brazilian will partner the hottest favourite of the day when Tornado Twist bids for a swift hat-trick in the Pearce Memorial Challenge Cup at 8.05.
Early signs suggest this gelding could go around as one of the hottest favourites of the season so far and it’s easy to see why based on the way he bounded clear over course and distance recently.
Lucky Hero and Diamond Rhyme will be popular Quinella options, with good reason, but Tornado Twist came home in 22.07s and 22.37s on his latest start.
Those closing splits suggest that he’s much better than a Class 3 sprinter and he’s probably still very well treated despite a 12lb hike for his latest success.
Hurricane on the hunt for better luck in running
Moreira is aboard the market leader again when lightly-raced Chairman Mo lines up for the Long Valley Handicap at 7.00 and John Size’s grey has shown more than enough in two starts to suggest that he’s ready to score at Class 4 level.
He’s happened upon a race in which plenty of horses are hard to fancy, so another bold effort looks assured, but don’t be surprised if Purton provides a potent threat in the shape of Hurricane Hunter.
This gelding has progressed nicely since joining Dennis Yip this season and made short work of ordinary Class 5 rivals over 1400m here in December.
Traffic problems spoiled his chance of a follow up in Class 4 company last month but he’s trialled well since and is capable of giving the Chairman plenty to think about granted better luck this time.
Monster on the prowl
Douglas Whyte has just three more meetings until he retires from the saddle and it’s interesting to note that Tony Cruz has put him back aboard Happy Sebring in the Ho Sheung Heung handicap at 9.10.
There’s no doubt this gelding has tons of ability – as he showed when charging home from the rear to finish second over course and distance last month – but his tendency to start slowly remains a concern and there’s little doubt that things need to go his way.
Those factors are well worth noting if he starts fairly short in the market and the Purton factor is again a point of interest.
The canny Aussie swooped from well back to land a Class 4 aboard Dynamic Eagle here recently but a 6lb hike takes him up in grade and Purton is aboard Tianchi Monster now.
Chris So’s gelding was impressive here under Purton at Christmas and caught the eye again last time, badly hampered in a rough race but running on again to finish a close sixth.
Better luck would have seen him right upsides Happy Sebring that day and Tianchi Monster looks a less complicated customer than his main market rival, too.
Circuit on the right track in finale
Time is moving on for aspiring Derby contenders to state their case and a handful of British imports have the opportunity to do just that in the concluding Beas River Handicap at 9.45.
These are early days for all three but King’s Shield hasn’t replicated his smart Gosden form in two HK runs and Gold Chest (aka Naval Intelligence for Jane Chapple-Hyam) didn’t show a huge amount on his Sha Tin bow.
Epic finished fourth in Roaring Lion’s Dante when known as Merlin Magic for David Elsworth and has won a morning trial recently, but old rivals Circuit Number Two and Enrichment could be the pair to focus on here.
There’s little to split the pair based on the form they showed to finish third and fourth here in October.
Enrichment is bound to be popular after running very well in a strong race since, but Circuit Number Two is very well drawn for a front runner and a recent trial success hints that he is more than ready to go well again after a break.
Zac attack makes Silvestre’s Derby Dream go Dark
You can’t turn your back for a minute in Hong Kong – as Silvestre de Sousa is finding out.
Britain’s champion jockey jetted off for a brief trip home after partnering BMW Hong Kong Derby favourite Derby Dream in last Sunday’s Classic Mile.
Dark Dream lost no admirers in charging home for fourth after a torrid trip but it appears that de Sousa did as Purton will replace him when the star four-year-old tackles the Classic Cup on February 17th.
Purton’s form figures in the last three Derbies read 31233.
Two of the thirds came on Beauty Generation and Exultant – which shows how hot the competition can be – but Dark Dream is clearly among the very best of the Classic crop seen thus far.