The Davis Files - the comprehensive review of the meeting at Sha Tin on Sunday, January 17th, 2021:
RACE 1 SWAN HANDICAP HK $750,000
Class 5 – Rating 40-0 – Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1600m – Track Good
Time: 1:36.14 Standard Time: 1:34.85 Course/Class Record: 1:34.38
Winner: SHANGHAI DRAGON (AUS 6yo g All Too Hard – Miss Tizzy) defiant in leading throughout and holding off all challenges. Karis Teetan had the 22-start maiden rolling along at his own pace and found a nice kick under siege halfway down the running to win quite comfortably in the end. Start 23 the lucky one, he had placed in eight of the previous 22 and well due his winning reward now six starts deep in Class 5. A race for everyone, as they say.
Runner-up: MANNA FROM HEAVEN was a long odds chance closing $203 on the tote at the jump and he certainly ran well ahead of expectations. A dozen starts in Hong Kong without even looking likely, today positioned well fifth the outer and doing no work, showing a lot more determination in his effort when produced. Has 13 starts in Great Britain to win twice and place on another four occasions so he is better than he had showed.
Run Of The Race: At 66/1 SANGRIA was a great run, many lengths to make up from a long way back and to finish fourth in the fastest last 400m a very solid effort. He had won once from 41 Hong Kong appearances leading to this and out of form although just second up this term.
Disappointment: Favourite DAILY CHARM was four deep the fence, off to find space at that crucial stage at the home turn and he ran into two brick walls. Out too late and making ground but devoid of luck when required.
Comparison: Running 1.3 seconds outside of standard is a rather slow start to the day.
Market Mover: WONDER WIN $12.50 to $9.20
RACE 2 SNIPE HANDICAP HK $1,000,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 – Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1400m – Track Good
Time: 1:23.90 Standard Time: 1:21.85 Course/Class Record: 1:20.80
Winner: GOLDEN LINK (NZ 4yo g Per Incanto – Kendoka) breaks through in start nine in Hong Kong, the Kiwi bred trying to recapture his better form after a couple of strong placings over 1200m at Sha Tin last season. Disappointing return in 2020-2021 with four unsuccessful runs albeit without all the luck. Today, Antoine Hamelin positioned him in the trail, had to wait for a gap to come outside heels and once through the race over inside that final 50m. Trainer Ricky Yiu adds a win to his seasons tally, a quiet start by his standards with 14 wins but that will increase rapidly. Per Incanto strikes again - don’t they perform in Hong Kong.
Runner-up: SAM’S LOVE tracked the pace and Purton stalked them before making his bid from fifth the outer, looked likely, clearly outpointed at the 100m, and then dived again late to make reduce the winning margin. After a second and a fourth this term in four starts for Dennis Yip the son of Smart Missile looked due, and nearly got the job done. Two wins and 11 placings from 38 starts so he is no star but a handy horse in the right grade.
Run Of The Race: On place the spot to be in a walking race and no notable runs because of such a slow tempo.
Disappointment: SUPER TEN backed as if unbeatable in the end and after leading disappointing not being able to fend them off in slow time.
Comparison: A mammoth 2.05 seconds outside of standard is unheard of. Awfully slow.
Market Mover: SUPER TEN $3.10 to $2.00
RACE 3 EGRET HANDICAP HK $3,000,000
Class 1 – Rating 110-85 – All Weather – Distance 1650m – Track Good
Time: 1:37.85 Standard Time: NST Course/Class Record: 1:36.34
Winner: ELUSIVE STATE (AUS 7yo g All American – Jarada) was back, swept forward and joined hot favourite KINGS SHIELD and soon had his measure off the home turn, booting right away to win easily. Not major surprise in this, his all-weather form has been outstanding in the past, winning seven of his eight career runs on the dirt track before adding a ninth here. Tony Millard seems to know how to get the very-best out of his horses on the dirt, they all run well under his guidance on the track most save for trial day. A bold fourth last time out on Boxing Day over this course and distance would be the catalyst for success here.
Runner-up: ENCORE BOY fought on well in a solidly run race, he seemed to thrive on a nice even tempo and was again strong through the line. Another horse who thrives when he is put onto this track and off two second placings from three starts this season, he seems an inevitable winner at short notice. Five wins and 14 placings for well over $HK 7 million, not a bad haul for him.
Run Of The Race: ELUSIVE STATE in an elusive frame of mind today, ready after that eye-catcher on Boxing Day and remarkably above the $5.00 win price which in retrospect was rather generous.
Disappointment: KINGS SHIELD went around $1.70 on his favourite track but unfortunately matches his latest form on the turf with another disappointing performance. Leading as he does; he was well beaten when under fire after the turn and beaten eight-lengths. Vetted, no findings.
Comparison: No standard time to lean on but against a record speed some way outside of that clip.
Market Mover: KINGS SHIELD $1.70 to $1.50 late drift back to $1.70
RACE 4 SPOONBILL HANDICAP HK $1,000,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 – All Weather – Distance 1650m – Track Good
Time: 1:38.54 Standard Time: 1:39.00 Course/Class Record: 1:38.02
Winner: LADY FIRST (NZ 7yo g Zacinto – Avoid) was a 37-start Hong Kong maiden into today’s race finally breaks that trend in winning well for a persistent and obviously delighted trainer Tony Cruz who took the horse on last season and he has persevered without that success coming. Put into a lovely spot fourth the outer the Zacinto gelding was far too powerful once asked to extend and he won like a horse who could put anther on the board. Keith Leung chalks up win number 14 for the season in the saddle, he rides very well among the top-class jockeys in Hong Kong and deserves his successes.
Runner-up: SO AWESOME worked quite hard early three-deep to find his way to the front coated along strongly once he got there and was gallant in defeat when the winner went straight past him. Had an opportunity to knock off after that early surge but he kicked on valiantly. Now 11 starts without a win in Hong Kong but is six times placed and this his debut on the dirt track. Win comes very soon.
Run Of The Race: DOUBLE TAKE rallied very strongly into third money from some way back. He settled four back the fence but several lengths behind the leading quartet, stole some ground down towards the rail on the corner and ran home strongly. No stranger to the all-weather track, he was registering his third placing on top off two wins on the dirt in eight consecutive race starts on the surface since June 2020. Caspar Fownes will get another win out of him quickly.
Disappointment: SKYEY SUPREME was again below his best standard on the dirt, led and taken on, trailed when crossed by SO AWESOME and well beaten before the corner.
Comparison: Quickly run and it showed on track, they were scooting along and the field strung out.
Market Mover: CROWN AVENUE $16.00 to $10.00
RACE 5 SEA EAGLE HANDICAP HK $1,000,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 – Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1200m – Track Good
Time: 1:09.97 Standard Time: 1:09.25 Course/Class Record: 1:08.45
Winner: NEW FUTURE (AUS 4yo g The Factor – New Moves) salutes second up at huge odds of 74/1 out of the Benno Yung yard after failing to produce anything of note when he debuted over 1200m at Happy Valley on December 23. A huge turnaround from the unfancied galloper today the performance certainly not matching the lack of betting confidence. Jockey Blake Shinn is a man for the upset himself, picks up a few wins at big odds and this would be one of his biggest. Settling in the last trio, Shinn had the gelding to the very outside at the 350m mark and he roared home to win going away, shocking all in sundry. The momentum was all from the back runner late, the first three coming from 11th, 12th, and 14th in running. A four-time trialist in Australia, this fellow was a $17,000 yearling and a $40,000 two-year-old through respective sales.
Runner-up: CLASSIC POSH unwound powerfully underneath the winner and looked the likely one at the 250m but had to bow to the superior finish of the outsider. Jerry Chau took 7lb off the back of this horse to ease that 133lb impost at the top of the handicap and it nearly came off. Good, honest galloper.
Run Of The Race: NEW FUTURE cannot be beaten on this one, he was amazingly good for a very-much unwanted commodity in the betting. SUPER RED DRAGON came from last to run third and his effort also full of merit. Heavily backed GALACTIC disappointed for racing luck trapped three-wide on speed and very game. RUN THE TABLE was better here, devoid of luck early in run home, solid late.
Disappointment: LITTLE PLAYER was not helped by a wide gate but as a well-supported runner he did not the same kick the others did from off the pace in centre track and therefore quite disappointing. Vetted, an irregular heart rhythm found.
Comparison: A good seven-tenths outside of standard on a track playing very dull for the ‘A’ course.
Market Mover: GALACTIC $9.70 to $5.20
RACE 6 SEA EAGLE HANDICAP HK $1,000,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 – Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1200m – Track Good
Time: 1:10.48 Standard Time: 1:09.25 Course/Class Record: 1:08.45
Winner: FAMILY FOLKS (AUS 4yo g Snitzel – Miss Sharapova) was a $900,000 yearling through the 2018 Inglis Easter Sale and later on-sold for $HK 4.5 million at the 2019 International Sale, so he came with large price tags before anyone really knew if he could gallop. Today he proves he can, the son of four-time NZ winner Miss Sharapova proving a smart finish from well back when on debut on December 20 was a run to be improved upon. Michael Chang had him in tip top order off the back of that debut run, and Antoine Hamelin did the rest in riding him positively outside leader in a big switch in tactics, struck the front at the 350m, and though headed inside the 150m he fought back tenaciously to win narrowly. Jury’s out If he is a million-dollar horse just now, but give him his dues, he was brave under real pressure today and the tenacity a great sign.
Runner-up: HOT CHILI PEPPER loomed to win it, headed the former at the 100m and was worried out of it again extremely late. Pleasing for trainer Danny Shum regardless of winning or running second, the nice lift in effort from the son of Smart Missile a positive for a horse who had not offered a great deal in four previous outings this season. He trialled on three occasions in Australia for the Waterhouse-Bott stable but was put aside after fractures were found.
Run Of The Race: FAMILY FOLKS had to get over from gate 12 to be outside the leader and there was a good enough excuse for him to lay down a little late in the race. To see him dig even deeper was such a good sign.
Disappointment: EVERYONE’S DELIGHT has been a little less than spectacular a couple of times, but it is hard to knock a nice young horse with a good record. He’s just not found his way through the line in his last two. A plain sixth last time at 1400m and he had his chance again here back to the 1200m. Weight, however, stops them all.
Comparison: Another slowly run race and we can now say the track is well on the dead side of good. Well over a second outside of standard on the ‘A’ course is rather rare.
Market Mover: EVERYONE’S DELIGHT $2.90 to $1.90
RACE 7 HERON HANDICAP HK $1,500,000
Class 3 – Rating 80-60 – Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1000m – Track Good
Time: 0:57.22 Standard Time: 0:56.35 Course/Class Record: 0:54.89
Winner: PING HAI BRAVO (AUS 4yo g Red Dazzler – Aussie Bluebird) grabs win five in just start 14 and what a smart horse he is, loves a dash up the big straight at Sha Tin and already in a relatively short career to date he has taken some big scalps. Following two wins and a second in his last three starts at this track and distance, it was somewhat surprising to see him go around at 10/1, though punters did expect a major pull in the weights in favour of some smart young gallopers would perhaps prove an issue. A red-hot Antoine Hamelin gladly proved them wrong, steered him beautifully over behind the leaders from a nice wide gate and booted him clear at the appropriate time, 133lb and all. What a great horse, he gave 16lb and 17lb away to some incredibly talented animals today and he kicked their backsides. He just blitzed them in a race-best 22.47 the final 400m.
Runner-up: VALIANT DREAM led and gave his all under Zac Purton, a great try from a tough horse who just does not know how to go a bad race. He had to carry the 132lb and he was beaten by the one above him in the handicap so you would have to say the handicapper was absolutely spot on in his assessment of this field. That is three consecutive placings for this horse up the straight at Sha Tin for Francis Lui.
Run Of The Race: CARROLL STREET was terrific again, what a nice horse he is. So impressive in winning his debut here, he was expected to feature very prominently again with no weight on his back today. And he did feature, though late in the race as he had to overcome a slow start from a low gate.
Disappointment: Hard to knock the endeavour, but a low gate was really of little help to the smart FORTE who made his move into the race and looked a threat, but he just could not go with the momentum which was all on the fast part of the track near the outside rail.
Comparison: A long way outside of standard which today is par and move on.
Market Mover: WAR OF COURAGE $25.40 to $14.00, VALIANT DREAM $5.60 to $3.50
RACE 8 PEACOCK HANDICAP HK $1,500,000
Class 3 – Rating 85-60 – All Weather – Distance 1650m – Track Good
Time: 1:37.88 Standard Time: 1:38.55 Course/Class Record: 1:37.22
Winner: HONGKONG GREAT (CHI 5yo g Lookin At Lucky – La Sinverguenza) is now a first-time winner in Hong Kong in his seventh start after finding his way here on a high rating of 80 points after five wins in his homeland of Chile, three of those at Group 1 level. It has taken a while for him to find that sort of form, he was a winner from 1200m all the way out to 2000m in Chile so finding his right mark would be the key and Danny Shum has been tinkering with the right formula. He rises from three on the dirt at 1200m to the 1650m today and that proves the trick. Leading all the way he was never in doubt under an in-form Antoine Hamelin today, winning by over four-lengths in a canter. Chilean dam is a daughter of prolific dirt sire Scat Daddy and a connection to him is often found in overseas all-weather track performers. We found his niche today and this will not be his last dirt track success in Hong Kong.
Runner-up: PING HAI TREASURE chased the leader throughout and just could not go with him, the Chilean galloper putting a big gap on him and the others when they went for home. A second top three on the dirt for this horse this term, four starts in now and closing in on a third career victory in Hong Kong. Brave try.
Run Of The Race: PARTY EVERYDAY maintained an amazing all-weather track record in darting home from last to run third, his eighth consecutive run on the track, and his eighth consecutive top-three finish, including three wins. HARMONY SPIRIT with some tote support also rallied strongly into fourth.
Disappointment: TURIN REDSTAR was unable to make up the ground as a well fancied runner, they ran along, and it all seemed a bit much for him today. Vetted, no findings.
Comparison: A real turnaround in fortunes for the timekeeper, this one a flying mile and a bit on the all-weather track, run at brisk pace well under standard.
Market Mover: HARMONY SPIRIT $38.00 to $20.00
RACE 9 FLAMINGO HANDICAP HK $2,200,000
Class 2 – Rating 100-80 – Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1000m – Track Good
Time: 0:56.74 Standard Time: 0:56.15 Course/Class Record: 0:54.69
Winner: BEAUTY APPLAUSE (AUS 5yo g Stratum – Easy Step) made the most of gate 14, often regarded as the worst draw on the course proper, or course. But in the sprint up the long 1000m chute at Sha Tin anything close to the outside rail is a great draw. Joao Moreira must have been feeling a bit left out by this stage of the day, so he quickly reminded us again of his skills, ably guiding this speedy son of Stratum through his paces in finding a comfortable rhythm behind the leading trio before pouncing when the time was right. After winning four of six starts from mid-2019 to December 2019 he had failed to hit those high notes again. Though, trainer John Size would have been happier with the intent in his effort this season, interesting each of five previous outings this season at either 1400m or 1200m. Today marked his 1000m debut in Hong Kong and it worked a treat. Win five from start 18, it takes a talented horse to do that in Hong Kong.
Runner-up: WELLINGTON had to dig deep, the $1.70 favourite in a real race with the winner inside the final 300m and they sorted themselves out from the rest. For a fleeting moment he did look like he would win, but the former just too tough in the final strides. Loses no friends in searching for another win, an exemplary four-wins from five starts leading in but this effort as good as any.
Run Of The Race: MASSIVE POCKET is a horse to follow out of the race, gave them a big start and chased a lot of them down in the straight to make it into sixth and four lengths from the winner. Clocked in a race-best 22.61 the last 400m he is due to win after four runs this campaign.
Disappointment: Not the best from CLASSIC UNICORN today, a better one was expected but he fell short of that standard. Vetted, no findings.
Comparison: Outside standard and just par for the course today.
Market Mover: WELLINGTON $2.50 to $1.60
RACE 10 KESTREL HANDICAP HK $1,500,000
Class 3 – Rating 80-60 – Turf ‘A’ Course – Distance 1400m – Track Good
Time: 1:21.92 Standard Time: 1:21.65 Course/Class Record: 1:20.62
Winner: TEMPEST EXPRESS (NZ 4yo g Proisir – Pemba Nepali) wins and its not all about him, because it is all about Antoine Hamelin who wins half the card and has a magical day in the saddle with a five-timer, his best in his short history in Hong Kong. The ultra-talented French rider had endured a quiet period over the past three months and was due a day out. He last won a race eight meetings ago on December 16 at Happy Valley, rode just two winners for the month of December, one in November, and two in October. Today he rides that number of winners in five hours. A great comeback of sorts from a top-line jockey who has had to sit in the background for some time as Moreira, Purton, Soumillon, and co, did their thing. He sat this one just off the speed and pounced at the perfect time. Nice form turnaround after six unplaced runs in Hong Kong since arriving as a two-time winner for Joseph Pride in Sydney.
Runner-up: THE HULK lacked for nothing in the fight for home, came with a brave finish after being three-deep without cover in the run and never shirked his task. The 113lb was certainly a help but his determination was the key to this result. Due some racing luck and a win.
Run Of The Race: THE HULK had to work hard wide and was terrific. ROMANTIC COMBO and TELECOM CHEETAH were the ones to make impressions from a long way back and horses to follow into next start.
Disappointment: KA YING EXCELLENT not as his absolute best today after sharing the speed and being in the right place at the top of the straight. Another day for him.
Comparison: Three-tenths above standard was good going based on the day’s racing. A solidly run affair this one.
Market Mover: MY SUGAR $5.90 to $3.00
Five for Antoine Hamelin, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club