The Davis Files - the comprehensive review of the meeting at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, January 13th, 2021:
RACE 1 VERBENA HANDICAP HK $1,000,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 – Turf ‘B’ Course – Distance 2200m – Track Good
Time: 2:16.53 Standard Time: 2:17.50 Course/Class Record: 2:16.06
Winner: VICTORIOUS SEEKER (AUS 5yo g Sebring – Prostar) is obviously well suited to the 2200m, third up this campaign for Paul O’Sullivan after two at 1800m when down the track on both occasions. Tonight, a better horse, Chad Schofield said ‘enough’ at the 800m, he knew the leaders had done plenty and off he went from last in a lightning move, took control 600m out and kept galloping strongly to finish it off in great style. His second win from 17 starts, successful in April 2020 with Moreira up over 1800m, and five times placed including two at 2200m. So, the form watchers would have rated him better than the 20/1 odds he went around at. A $A150,000 yearling through the Magic Millions Gold Coast sale exactly four years ago.
Runner-up: EXALTATION was quickly into a good spot, had to rally quickly when the hustle went on at the half-mile and though he looked likely to win at the 200m mark he peaked on that and could not reel in the former. At least some consistency in performance now, that is two placings from his last two starts after 18 unplaced efforts in Hong Kong.
Run Of The Race: VICTORIOUS SEEKER was terrific, but big ups to the third placed DYNAMIC EAGLE who was involved in that early rush for the front positions and he was the only survivor. And a little unlucky, badly held up as the leaders stopped in front of him. PERFECT TO PLAY also copped some backwash from those tiring runners and rallied well again.
Disappointment: MORE THAN A HORSE was terrible, a big effort expected from him dropping back from Class 3 but he failed to show a thing and walked over the line. Vetted, substantial blood found in the trachea.
Comparison: A hot start to a cold night. Cooler temperatures did not stop the Class 4 stayers nearly bettering standard by a full second, courtesy of some real early pace and a constant tempo after.
Market Mover: PERFECT TO PLAY $15.10 to $8.30
RACE 2 MAGNOLIA HANDICAP HK $1,000,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 – Turf ‘B’ Course – Distance 1200m – Track Good
Time: 1:10.66 Standard Time: 1:09.90 Course/Class Record: 1:08.92
Winner: UNIVERSAL GO GO (NZ 6yo g Azamour – Love Blooms) does not win them out of turn but perhaps he has a good memory. Lats time he won was on January 19, 2019, nearly two years to the day. Some 25 starts later he finally salutes again, sits middle outer and in a nice spot behind a leading bunch, got the gap when he wanted it at the top of the straight and kicked away strongly under Matthew Poon. He is a Happy Valley specialist, only very rarely ventures to Sha Tin, and the last he did that, a year ago. Nice reward for owner Alexander Wong and trainer Francis Lui who have shown faith in the Kiwi bred and he delivered them a nice win tonight.
Runner-up: DAILY BEAUTY was a warm favourite to win this and maybe he would have with a little more luck in the run, he did get a wee shuffle up and had to make his move very wide on the corner, the winner saving plenty of ground underneath him. Not a huge margin at the finish and he was equally as good on the night. Now four times placed from seven runs this term and due his reward.
Run Of The Race: Debutant GLUCK RACER was terrific, and no real surprise the son of former Singapore star Super One ran so well off the back of a couple of nice trials including a recent one when he placed behind the very smart Sight Success. A slow start would prove rather costly, he jumps with them he likely wins the race based on a surging finish from third-last and with a huge slice of ground to make up. A cheap yearling and two-year-old and unraced in Australia, he will make his mark in Hong Kong, and already has. Manfred Man has selected a nice type here. His 22.52 final 400m eclipsed the field.
Disappointment: HAPPY PROFIT was soon outside leader from the wide gate with plenty of money on, challenged briefly at the turn but soon faded. His debut looked an improvers run on December 16 and that enticed support here. Another day for him. Vetted and substantial mucus found in the trachea.
Comparison: The stayers ran well under standard, the sprinters a long way outside standard. Two different tales so far tonight.
Market Mover: HAPPY PROFIT $11.20 to $5.80
RACE 3 WISTARIA HANDICAP HK $750,000
Class 5 – Rating 40-0 – Turf ‘B’ Course – Distance 1650m – Track Good
Time: 1:41.29 Standard Time: 1:40.30 Course/Class Record: 1:39.11
Winner: BABY STORM (NZ 5yo g Redwood – Poetic Licence) grabs the hard one to find – the maiden win. In start 15 he salutes for trainer Peter Ho, a man who has so much success in Hong Kong over the years and this win represents his 600th winner. Congratulations to Peter on a wonderful achievement. Off three consecutive third placings in Class 5 the win had to come, and tonight champion rider Joao Moreira guided him through it, put the Kiwi-bred into a gun position fourth and fifth the outer and one-off and in the right place to strike from. He will remain in Class 5 with this win, came off a rating of 32 points into tonight’s race so he will rise in weight but stay in the grade.
Runner-up: FAIRY FLOSS was terrific from a conspicuous last nearing the turn, finding some late gaps as Keith Leung skilfully saved ground on the home turn. Despite not finishing closer than fifth in six previous outings this season for new trainer Paul O’Sullivan, the son of Guillotine has never been too far away off an exceptionally low rating and this performance not exactly a surprise. Off 22 points he gets to win a couple of races soon in Class 5.
Run Of The Race: FAIRY FLOSS head and shoulders the pick of them. His 23.43 last 400m a long way ahead of the field.
Disappointment: BULB ELITE run over in the straight and he seemed to have his chance. Support was about for him after failing on the dirt track on December 6 after he had performed well in a late December barrier trial.
Comparison: A full second outside of standard in a slowly run affair, they did crawl their way along and a few would have appreciated some more pace. Makes the run of FAIRY FLOSS look even better.
Market Mover: FOR FUN’S SAKE $26.60 to $18.00
RACE 4 OSMANTHUS HANDICAP HK $1,000,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 – Turf ‘B’ Course – Distance 1650m – Track Good
Time: 1:40.92 Standard Time: 1:40.10 Course/Class Record: 1:38.83
Winner: GALLANT CROWN (NZ 4yo g Hallowed Crown – Justagem) goes back-to-back for trainer Tony Millard; took a 1200m Class 4 maiden win with absolute ease in early December and freshened up for his New Year assault since. Millard employed Karis Teetan for the job tonight and he did it in style, picked his path to perfection, used a nice sit in transit after working a little early to find a spot, awaited his turn and produced at the right time. This horse could be a tad underrated, they do not win two on end in Class 4 without being handy and since Millard has opted to take the leap from 1200m out to the 1650m it has been nothing but magic. Dam was handy, she won out to 1600m and the family tree says 2000m is within range. Good staying potential this fellow.
Runner-up: BRAVE KING was massive at longer odds, rear couple before taking off a long way from home in a swift last-to-first dash, held a margin on them at the 150m mark and succumbed late to the strong bid from the winner. The first showing of form from this Irish-bred in Hong Kong, he won two from five in Ireland at 1400m on the poly, and 1636m on the turf before making his way across the ocean. Douglas Whyte had him initially, this his second start for the new stable of Tony Cruz.
Run Of The Race: BRAVE KING was very much alike an earlier performance from the winner of the opening race in Victorious Seeker. He too sat back and made a quick mid-race move to change the complexion of the race. Nice to see this gelding show some form. ZHAN JIANG ROCKS fought tenaciously after being trapped deep and his effort to run fourth a brave one. METHANE did some solid work late.
Disappointment: HAPPY WIN WIN was a fair way off them, had his chance to work into the race when the pace quickened but was just fair out wide and well contained in a fair performance.
Comparison: A long way outside standard, they have really cooled their heels since that rocketing start to the night over 2200m.
Market Mover: KING DRAGON $4.10 to $3.00
RACE 5 DIANTHUS HANDICAP HK $1,000,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 – Turf ‘B’ Course – Distance 1000m – Track Good
Time: 0:57.52 Standard Time: 0:57.15 Course/Class Record: 0:56.39
Winner: SIMPLY FLUKE (NZ 6yo g Keeper – Heartache) had to be good to win this, missed the kick and landed on his feet in last position over the flying 1000m, never a good start. But this puts the kid up in lights again – Jerry Chau never panicked as he took rails runs, picked a path off the home turn where he had to negotiate heels, and fired the Keeper gelding for home. To win was exceptional from both horse and rider. Trainer Douglas Whyte must be so proud of his prodigy. Such a neat horse this guy, 19 starts results in three wins and seven placings for a good bankroll. He was unraced in New Zealand, won his only trial for leading Kiwi trainer Stephen Marsh before export. His first win at 1000m this time after winning an April double last year at 1200m, also at Happy Valley. To Class 3 he will now march and that could test him.
Runner-up: TRAVEL DATUK had them cheering at the 200m mark, the grand old boy was home and hosed – then along came Jerry. He is racing so well the evergreen Irish-bred, but he just cannot win. In arguably his best career form right now, four times placed in his last four attempts and all particularly good efforts. He zipped up to sit outside the leader here and took control at the corner. In this form he must break through, he won in June 2015 in Ireland, his OVERALL record stands at 53 starts for one win but 47 without success in Hong Kong. Off a rating of 43 points he is getting rather close to Class 5.
Run Of The Race: From the tail of the field and quite noticeably checked around the home turn both JAZZ STEED (third) and OVERSUBSCRIBED (fourth) were strong here. A lot of merit in their respective performances.
Disappointment: U W BROTHER was one of the leading few who were not there at the business end, the favourite for the race onto the speed with his usual electric start but he failed to see it out. FARM BUMPER pulled up lame in right front.
Comparison: On a cool night just above 10 degrees the speed is just not there, they looked to be clicking along here but were well above standard.
Market Mover: INFINITE POWER $17.80 to $10.80
RACE 6 MAGNOLIA HANDICAP HK $1,000,000
Class 4 – Rating 60-40 – Turf ‘B’ Course – Distance 1200m – Track Good
Time: 1:10.01 Standard Time: 1:09.90 Course/Class Record: 1:08.92
Winner: NOBLE BIRTH (NZ 4yo g Per Incanto – Caley Marie) goes back-to-back for Jimmy Ting, this promising galloper finding his range now after a handful of misses to kick things off. Two wins at Happy Valley at 1200m, ridden handier with Zac Purton on board in both victories. He was a $35,000 NZD yearling and turned over later for $150,000 NZD after showing good talent in a 2YO Breeze Up Sale. Dam Caley Marie (by Keeper) was a good handy race mare, she won four and placed on 11 other occasions from 2009 to 2011 under the guidance of leading trainer Kevin Myers.
Runner-up: WHISKEY NEAT kicked on gamely after sharing the speed but no match for the winner who was quite dominant late in the piece. A low draw helped both horses tonight and this one aided by that in claiming his second runner-up position in a row as he seeks his first win in Hong Kong for Caspar Fownes. Consistently about the top three he has yet to put his hand up and salute in 18 appearances.
Run Of The Race: Good late work from TELECOM ROCKET and SPEEDY OPTIMIST from the tail of the field in 23.08 and 23.09 respectively for that final 400m split, bettered only by Noble Birth in 23.03. Nice work from that pair coming from gates 7 and 11.
Disappointment: The well supported MIGHTY POWER got over nicely to be fourth or fifth and one-off, presented to make his challenge at the right time and was found wanting over the concluding stages.
Comparison: A better tempo here, they did scoot along to be just above standard.
Market Mover: MIGHTY POWER $5.30 to $4.50
RACE 7 BEGONIA HANDICAP HK $1,500,000
Class 3 – Rating 80-60 – Turf ‘B’ Course – Distance 1200m – Track Good
Time: 1:09.77 Standard Time: 1:09.65 Course/Class Record: 1:08.68
Winner: HANDSOME BO BO (AUS 6yo g Helmet – Sadler’s Girl) continues this march back to his best form with another impressive win, his second from just the three starts this season in a strong pick up in form. A quiet season in 2019-2020 with just eight starts, he finished that campaign at the end of May and was not sighted on race day again until December. That break would seemingly be the catalyst for the rise in form again. Zac Purton takes over tonight with regular rider Blake Shinn on board hot favourite HARMONY N BLESSED. Into the one-out one-back position immediately, Purton had him off their heels at the turn to power home and score. He gets to a rating well above the 80-point threshold again, so Class 2 awaits him, and they are no mugs the sprinters up there.
Runner-up: TRIPLE TRIPLE has darted home at 26/1 and impressed in making this interesting late in the piece. Just a one-win horse but a determined little guy, his form has been first class this season taking now four consecutive second or third placings at both Sha Tin and Happy Valley. His maiden success came over 1400m at Sha Tin and most of his better placed form is on the bigger track. Few give it go like he does.
Run Of The Race: HIGH RISE SOLDIER has had to break the clock to win and that was impossible, two extraordinarily strong final 400m sections to better the field from 800m to 400m (22.71) and again 400m to winning post (22.49) to run sixth. Excellent performance from a long way back after drawing the widest gate.
Disappointment: HARMONY N BLESSED not at his best tonight jumped and led as expected and soon off the bridle when the whips starting cracking at the top of the lane. Vetted, no findings.
Comparison: A good clip again base don the times tonight, outside of standard but barely.
Market Mover: HANDSOME BO BO $9.60 to $6.40
RACE 8 CASSIA HANDICAP HK $1,500,000
Class 3 – Rating 80-60 – Turf ‘B’ Course – Distance 1650m – Track Good
Time: 1:40.07 Standard Time: 1:39.80 Course/Class Record: 1:38.61
Winner: SMILING CITY (AUS 5yo g So You Think – Laylia) was heavily supported in betting in the minutes leading to start time and he repaid the faith, Joao Moreira quickly putting him into a winning position in jumping from an outside draw to get over and share the speed. The son of former champion So You Think able to dictate from there and after booting to a clear lead around the corner held enough in reserve to hold out the flying Delightful Laos late. Two wins for the Hayes-Dabernig stable in Australia before making his way to Douglas Whyte in Hong Kong, now 18 starts for two wins here without setting any records. A good handy horse in the middle grades, rated 64 points into this one and at around that 70-point range and below is his area.
Runner-up: DELIGHTFUL LAOS can make any race interesting if he decides to put his best hoof forward. And he does so tonight, sparks up after a slow start, which is not unusual for him, to fly home under apprentice Jerry Chau and run the hotly supported commodity to a slender margin in the end. A month between runs after he won on December 16 at this track and distance, rising 6lb in weight for this. No doubting he finds himself in a difficult position in the ratings with in excess of 80-points but a horse always respected given his obvious talents. That again on show here.
Run Of The Race: DELIGHTFUL LAOS the standout performer and on his coat tail NOBLE STEED who also sat back and powered home nicely into third. NAMJONG PLUS has gathered a few in late to run a solid last sectional and a tad unlucky after copping the tired ones at the wrong time, losing valuable ground.
Disappointment: ANGEL OF MY EYES had been tried in front once before and he did run a good second at Sha Tin over 1400m. Tonight they revert to those tactics and it fails to provide the fruit, Zac Purton giving this talented gelding a nice ride on top and he was a beaten horse as they swept around the home turn, folding to run last. Much better than that. Vetted, substantial mucus in the trachea.
Comparison: Solidly run nearly three-tenths above standard which is par tonight. A few disappointing runs here and it seemed to be a slog for them.
Market Mover: SMILING CITY $5.20 to $3.20
RACE 9 BEGONIA HANDICAP HK $1,500,000
Class 3 – Rating 80-60 – Turf ‘B’ Course – Distance 1200m – Track Good
Time: 1:09.85 Standard Time: 1:09.65 Course/Class Record: 1:08.68
Winner: HAPPY ALUMNI (AUS 5yo g Starcraft – Attilia) returns to the track for the first time in seven months and blitzes them, punters on board with him, too and he is backed late. Having his first start for David Hayes after doing all his previous racing out of the stable of Francis Lui, this talented but often enigmatic gelding had been prepared at Conghua for much of the campaign leading in, both working and trialling in the Chinese mainland before joining Hayes main stable at Sha Tin in mid-December. His trackwork record suggests plenty of swimming and a relatively light workload. It has worked, Vagner Borges quickly into the box seat from gate two and smiling as he gained the run he wanted, burst through in plenty of time and soon away and gone. A notable change tactically, this horse has generally wanted to get back and run on. Great to see a talented horse like this show his natural ability again.
Runner-up: SCORES OF FUN was massive from a long way back, had little option but to be ridden that way after jumping rather slowly from a low gate, second-to-last at the turn and powerful out wide to grab second in a dead-heat. CAPITAL STAR missed his kick from gate one and ended up further back than needed but he was brave in dashing into that close photo at the finish. This his first start in Hong Kong after winning a South Australian treble for John Hickmott as ‘Classy Jaybee’. Signs are positive for him.
Run Of The Race: SCORES OF FUN is hard to look past. And a notable run from BRIGHT KID who drew poorly in gate 12, slow and last here, doing strong work that final 150m out very wide into sixth.
Disappointment: THE RUNNER seemed to get his chance off a good sit on speed and was still there at the finish to others performed better based on the run he received.
Comparison: Two-tenths outside of standard to complete the nights racing on par. Cold night and times were reflective of that.
Market Mover: HAPPY ALUMNI $14.70 to $11.60
Baby Storm and Joao Moreira, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club