The Davis Files - the comprehensive review of the meeting at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, July 9th, 2020:
RACE 1 POK FU LAM HANDICAP HK $725,000
Class 5 – Rating 40-0 - Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1650m – Track Good
Time: 1:40.20 Standard Time: 1:40.65 Course/Class Record: 1:39.11
Winner: HAPPY ICHIBAN (AUS 3yo g Nicconi – Sheen) was smashed in betting at the jump and punters got paid, the son of Nicconi showing that sprinting ability early to get across from the wide gate and slot to a trail. Out on the corner to challenge he proved too good for leader and favourite MISCHIEVOUS SUNDAE over the concluding stages. This horse had been tried eight times by Douglas Whyte since February for no result in Class 4, debuted in a Class 5 on the dirt track on May 27 and came in on the fresh side for this off a barrier trial in mid-June. A plan that worked well, they had him spot on tonight.
Runner-up: MISCHIEVOUS SUNDAE took command and was given every chance by Karis Teetan, surrendered to a better horse on the night and extends his winless record to 20 starts in Hong Kong. Deserves one for good attendance.
Run Of The Race: HAPPY ICHIBAN the standout, speeding over early he was on a mission and a lovely ride from Vincent Ho to get the job done. GOLDEN CANNON did well to come from last and run fourth.
Disappointment: GREEN ENVY was entitled to run on from the back but he failed to show up. Disappointing in his Class 5 debut after hinting at better in Class 4.
Comparison: Near a half-second under standard which indicates we race on a lovely track tonight. Rail seemed the place to be, they didn’t fire wide.
Market Mover: HAPPY ICHIBAN $14.80 to $6.70
RACE 2 KOTEWALL HANDICAP HK $967,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 - Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1200m – Track Good
Time: 1:10.04 Standard Time: 1:10.10 Course/Class Record: 1:08.92
Winner: MOMENTUM HAPPY (GB 4yo g Dubawi – Longing To Dance) was another massive hi late on the tote and punters again very-much on good terms with themselves as the big mover leapt to the front early and kept on running. He led all the way to win at Sha Tin on May 3 at 1400m but had failed into two since at Sha Tin, the latest on the dirt track in late June. Reverting to the turf and having his first start at Happy Valley seemed a crucial move, trainer Jimmy Ting had him primed for this. He was a 200,000 Guinea sale at the 2017 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale and on-sold for HK $3.7 million at the 2019 International Sale.
Runner-up: SHINING ON raced closer tonight and peeled through a gap halfway down the straight to look the likely winner. But the run of the winner wouldn’t end and he had to be content with second placing again, consecutively after being the runner up on June 10 on this track. Very close to a Class 5 run, and he’ll win immediately down there.
Run Of The Race: Just keep watching DAZZLING FEELING who had tote support in his second career start and doing solid work from last from the home turn to run sixth in a race-best 22.66 the final 400m.
Disappointment: FEARLESS FIRE was hard ridden off the back straight and didn’t really lengthen out in the straight under Purton, the $2.70 favourite just fair.
Comparison: Shade under standard and you could see they were only ticking along at even sections through the run, dictated by the leader and winner.
Market Mover: MOMENTUM HAPPY $7.50 to $3.30, DAZZLING FEELING $29.50, to 19.00
RACE 3 KOTEWALL HANDICAP HK $967,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 - Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1200m – Track Good
Time: 1:10.11 Standard Time: 1:10.10 Course/Class Record: 1:08.92
Winner: XPONENTIAL (AUS 4yo g Equiano – Eternal Circle) adds to a very solid opening stint for Douglas Whyte, winning on debut for him in December 2019 and quite solid in his performances since. Nice bounce back to the winners list with 133lb, never easy. The leaders went quite crazy here and that suited his style, able to sit in and chase late to overpower them, as he’d done when winning that debut last year. He was a $A55,000 yearling and trialled on four occasions for Allan and Jason Williams before heading to Hong Kong. Slipping into Class 3 with no weight would not be the worst result for him.
Runner-up: GALLANT CROWN turned his form around in quite dramatic style, two starts in May and June offering little enthusiasm. But he rocketed home from the tail of the field tonight, lovely improvement for trainer Tony Millard. A trial winner in New Zealand the Hallowed Crown gelding was exported after that October 2019 hit-out. Home in 22.01 and 23.51 to be easily the fastest in the race from the half-mile, outstanding sectionals.
Run Of The Race: GALLANT CROWN and INNO LEGEND were real eye-catchers and mark the latter down, he was unlucky with a bad check at a crucial stage costing him a chance of finishing a lot closer.
Disappointment: SPRINT FORWARD sprinted forward perhaps too keenly and paid the price after sitting outside the leader then having to push the issue further at the 600m onwards.
Comparison: Right on standard but a bit of a crawl home. They’ve run that first half-mile and particularly the 800m to 400m split in very quick fashion.
Market Mover: MAJESTIC CONQUEROR $16.50 to $8.70
RACE 4 PO SHAN HANDICAP HK $725,000
Class 5 – Rating 40-0 - Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1200m – Track Good
Time: 1:10.76 Standard Time: 1:10.40 Course/Class Record: 1:09.73
Winner: SURPEME PLUS (AUS 4yo g Nicconi -Torrini) may not be any Nature Strip but he’s another of the stock of Nicconi to show some good form of late. Three placings from 17 starts preceding this and not fancied in the market but in-form trainer Frankie Lor had him forward for this assignment, his fifth attempt in Class 5. He had to sprint with some vigour to run them down after being back of midfield and wide on the turn. Prepared in NZ by Matthew Ivil and a trial winner before heading to Hong Kong in 2018.
Runner-up: FOX CHEUNGER had the desired run in transit to win this and he looked home until the thundering hooves of the former arrived in the shadows of the post. Slipping all the way down to 119lb and off a good gate the Francis Lui-trained runner was well supported to win this under Karis Teetan. He’s been in Class 5 for a year now and rating below 30 points.
Run Of The Race: SUPREME PLUS without question, excellent performance to pick them up, had a fair job in front of him off the home turn. Race best 23.11 final split.
Disappointment: MULTIMAX had every chance from gate one and a nice lead but he disappointed, fading over the final stages.
Comparison: Beyond standard and no fireworks in this field.
Market Mover: AURORA STEED $24.20 to $13.20, FLYING MONKEY $15.20 to $5.90
RACE 5 HATTON HANDICAP HK $967,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 - Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1000m – Track Good
Time: 0:57.08 Standard Time: 0:57.15 Course/Class Record: 0:56.39
Winner: NEXTMODEL (AUS 4yo g Stratum – Rock On Bye) scurried out from the wide draw and straight to front for Zac Purton who had these at his mercy a long way from home. Off the corner with plenty in the locker Purton only had to run the whip down the shoulder to maintain a three-length margin and win untested. Nice to see the Aussie-bred Kiwi import show his best, five starts to date all sound enough in the grade even though he was run down after leading last time around. A trial winner in New Zealand in December 2018 before heading offshore.
Runner-up: ARDENODE was great, wide the entire journey and very resolute in the run home. A good solid run of placed form from this horse, still yet to win in 17 starts in Hong Kong after arriving as a two-race winner from France, both over 1000m. Reward will come next season.
Run Of The Race: ARDENODE was really strong against the grain, not easy to be wide throughout and chase a free-running winner who railed like a greyhound.
Disappointment: WE THE SOUTH badly missed the kick, far from expected as he was the obvious leader on paper. That was race over for the topweight, never close enough despite running on okay late.
Comparison: Just under the standard and perfectly rated by Zac Purton, he just gave them no chance.
Market Mover: FORZA ANGEL $8.30 to $6.50, NOBLE BIRTH $28.90 to $11.40, NEXTMODEL $6.90 to $4.70
RACE 6 LYTTELTON HANDICAP HK $967,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 - Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1650m – Track Good
Time: 1:40.07 Standard Time: 1:40.45 Course/Class Record: 1:38.83
Winner: MURRAY’S PARTNERS (NZ 4yo g Towkay – Taatyana) goes back-to-back for Dennis Yip bouncing off a June 3 victory this track and trip with 118lb to win again with just a 3lb rise. Karis Teetan lobbed him into a front-half position and up on the corner to strike, under siege from Total Power late but too brave under pressure. Being on the fresh side may well have proven the trick with the Kiwi-bred, he’d not run in 10 weeks before that June victory, and his run again spaced to a month between outings leading into this. Faltaat mare Taatyana was a four-race winner in NZ, all at 1600m.
Runner-up: TOTAL POWER looked the one wide and just failed to see it out, the two-time winner in New South Wales for Kris Lees still winless in Hong Kong in 10 starts though nearing that win.
Run Of The Race: Too tough MURRAY’S PARTNERS, they all had a shot at him but he just kept defying them all the way home. And home in a race best 23.13 the last split.
Disappointment: AUTHENTIC CHAMP certainly disappointed given the big plunge on the tote, he was heavily supported by never close enough after a slow start. Ran 10th of 12 and second fastest final 400m in 23.22.
Comparison: Leader THUNDER STOMP rolled along in very even sections and set it up nicely for them to run out a strong final half-mile. Back runners were out of play, all the action from the front half.
Market Mover: AUTHENTIC CHAMP $18.10 to $6.90, RIGHTEOUS MATE $17.60 to $10.00
RACE 7 BREEZY HANDICAP HK $967,000
Class 3 – Rating 80-60 - Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1200m – Track Good
Time: 1:09.50 Standard Time: 1:09.85 Course/Class Record: 1:08.68
Winner: WIND N GRASS (IRE 4yo g Lawman – Roystonea) grabs his first Hong Kong success and an overdue one given he’s been penalised for four wins in Ireland as ‘Basic Law’ under the guidance of Ger Lyons before heading offshore. Interesting to see his best at 1400m and 1600m in Ireland but tried at 1200m in 11 of 13 race starts in HK. Nice run in transit in the end, he did get back but soon picked a path on the rail to be sixth coming to the turn and once he peeled to make his run it seemed inevitable. John Size may well look to step him to that 1400m to a mile range next term, weight to become an issue again in this grade as the penalty for winning.
Runner-up: LITTLE BIRD speared forward to lead and trail, had to work just hard enough to be edged out late. Gallant in defeat though, the trio that did the work early alongside him were not so prominent at the end.
Run Of The Race: VICTORY POWER was well favoured in this and very good after getting back of middle, storming home wide and late to finish third. A good consistent performer in Class 3 since taking his Class 4 success on Boxing Day at this track, this distance. Not bred in the purple but he’s a real trier.
Disappointment: Off a lovely trip in the trail BEAUTY SPARK was a tad dour home turn to winning post fighting fairly into fourth. A bit of bite in the ground would help him.
Comparison: Under standard and they did boot along early as the front few diced for the prime positions.
Market Mover: VICTORY POWER $7.80 to $5.00
RACE 8 BABINGTON HANDICAP HK $1,450,000
Class 3 – Rating 80-60 - Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1000m – Track Good
Time: 0:56.86 Standard Time: 0:56.60 Course/Class Record: 0:56.11
Winner: EXPOSIVE WITNESS (AUS 5yo g Star Witness – Rocket Baby) slipped through a gap off the turn and careered away to win very impressively, his first win in Hong Kong in his tenth attempt for Caspar Fownes. Lightly raced after winning his lone Australian start over 1000m at Moonee Valley for Greg Eurell, now some time ago, March 2017. He came up with a fracture on arrival in Hong Kong thus the long time between drinks. Nice to see the connections rewarded for patience. The horse can gallop.
Runner-up: CALIFORNIA ARCHER travelled sweetly in behind the speed, off the rail before the corner and loomed large until EXPLOSIVE WITNESS gave him wind burn halfway down. Last a winner in January 2019 the losing streak continues. He was unbeaten in two starts in Australia for Peter and Paul Snowden at Newcastle and Warwick Farm.
Run Of The Race: Winner EXPLOSIVE WITNESS was head and shoulders above them tonight, rattling out a sharp final section from off the speed and he looks to have peak form, albeit belatedly. BE READY was good late, too far back and very solid at the end.
Disappointment: Pre-race scratching of ETERNAL HARVEST after playing up in the gates robbed the race of a major player.
Comparison: Not a hot race by any stretch, outside standard and quite stop-start from the jump.
Market Mover: Market severely altered with scratching favourite at the barrier.
RACE 9 CONDUIT HANDICAP HK $1,450,000
Class 3 – Rating 80-60 - Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1800m – Track Good
Time: 1:49.20 Standard Time: 1:49.45 Course/Class Record: 1:48.30
Winner: GOLDEN SPECTRUM (Dutch Art – Lady Darshaan) can put the breakthrough victory in Hong Kong down to a brilliant tactical ride from champion in waiting Zac Purton. As he so often does, he makes his first ride on the horse count, an uncanny knack the multiple premiership winner has on horses he’s never ridden on race day. As the pace slackened two-thirds of the way through the race Purton was off, a slick burst of speed from beyond midfield to take charge before the corner and that was the winning of the race right there. Tactically others had fallen asleep, not Purton. No slouch this horse despite having come up winless in eight runs here, he had won two in Britain before taking Group 2 success in the Al Biddah Mile at Doha in February 2019. A dangerous horse now in Class 2 with minimal weight.
Runner-up: LIGHTNING STEED flew home from the tail and was terrific again trying for three wins in succession, rattling out the fastest final split after being left flat-footed when Golden Spectrum made his quick move. A productive season for the California Dane gelding, three wins and three placings under the guidance of Caspar Fownes and off such a strong Class 3 debut this grade won’t hold him long, either.
Run Of The Race: TOYCOON bombed the start badly, a clear last when settling and to pick up many lengths and run fourth was a grand effort from the Ricky Yiu-trained gelding who is just seven starts into his Hong Kong career after two wins for Jake Stephens in South Australia as ‘Rapid Bay’.
Disappointment: TASHIDELEK had the run of the race one-one and though caught when Golden Spectrum sprinted, he got quite one-paced late in the race in third. Solid, not spectacular. The well supported BRAVE KING failed to find clear racing room in the home straight.
Comparison: Very much the start-stop affair until Zac took the race by the throat and said enough at the 600m.
Market Mover: LIGHTNING STEED $15.80 to $6.10
Golden Spectrum and Zac Purton, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club