Hong Kong


The Davis Files - Sha Tin review

The Davis Files - the comprehensive review of the meeting at Sha Tin on Sunday, November 19th, 2023 

It was an important day of racing in Hong Kong as the good horses geared up for the HKIR meeting only a matter of weeks away. Brenton Avdulla took out jockey honours with an impressive four-timer while John Size trained four winners of his own. Zac Purton ended with a treble, booting home the winner in two of the three Group Two features. All eyes are now directed toward Sha Tin in December.

Race 1 – BOCHK Cross-Border Services Handicap, HK $1,170,000

Class 4 – Turf - Distance 1200m - Track Good
Time: 1:09.25 Standard Time: 1:09.40 Course/Class record: 1:08.40 Master Eight

Brenton Avdulla and David Hall got things underway as STAR CLUB (AUS 4yo g Star Turn – Madame Bookworm) proved far too good. The gelding jumped away on terms and settled in behind the speed as runners from out wide surged across heading to the first turn. Avdulla found himself midfield and between runners as they rounded the turn for home, with a big gap opening in front of him at the top of the straight. The Australian hoop was able to burst through the gap and set out after the leader, taking control with 150m left to run and inching further away with every stride, scoring by three-quarters of-a-length. DOUBLE WIN was one of those horses from wider out who crossed to the front early doors. He was leading passing the 800m, but was held away from the rail with a rival punching through underneath him. He settled well through the middle stages and loomed large on the outside of the leader at the top of the stretch, running to the front at the 250m mark. He showed plenty of fight despite being run down with 150m to go, sticking close to the winner right to the line. SUPER HIGHWAY was in a tricky spot turning for home, stuck along the inside near the tail of the field. Matthew Chadwick did well to weave his way through traffic and run home strongly in the closing stages, finishing in third. Race favourite Romantic Hero had settled midfield along the inside but was only fair to the line, finishing back in sixth.  

Race 2 – BOCHK Sme In One Handicap, HK $3,120,000

Class 2 – Turf - Distance 1800m - Track Good
Time: 1:49.51 Standard Time: 1:47.40 Course/Class record: 1:45.88 Solar Hei Hei

CHAMPION DRAGON (IRE 5yo g Starspangledbanner – Via Lattea) jumped well off the inside barrier and was crossed early in the race, prompting Alex Badel to get off the rail and sit on the outside of the leader. It was only a steady tempo through the middle stages as the flashy chestnut crept closer turning into the straight. He ran to the front with 300m to run as Badel asked for an effort, quickening well and getting better as the race went on. He would inch away from his rivals inside the final 100m and score by three-quarters of-a-length. TOURBILLON DIAMOND was run of the race from the position he was in. He settled last under Brenton Avdulla on what was a very sedate speed as outlined by the overall time in comparison to the standard time. He stormed right down the outside to claim second in a photo finish in a return to form. ALL FOR ST PAUL’S rolled forward to lead from barrier 7 and dictated the race from in front. Matthew Poon gave his mount every chance but he just ran into two better on the day. RISE BRETHREN didn’t have any luck at all in the straight as he laid in under pressure and got stuck in behind runners. He would finish last after jumping the second favourite.

Race 3 – BOC Life Handicap, HK $1,170,000

Class 4 – Turf - Distance 1200m - Track Good
Time: 1:08.91 Standard Time: 1:09.40 Course/Class record: 1:08.40 Master Eight

Zac Purton and John Size notched up their first win of the day as RAGING BLIZZARD (NZ 4yo g Per Incanto – Perfect Beat) scored his maiden victory. He jumped on terms from barrier 11 and was unable to slot into the running line, sitting three-wide and facing the breeze on the $2.40 favourite. Despite racing three-wide, he was in a great spot relative to the speed and rolled around the home turn, taking ground of the leaders at the top of the straight. He wobbled about when Purton pushed the button but he knuckled down strongly to take the lead with 150m to run. The Australian hoop eased up on the gelding close to the line as he held on to score by a half-length. STRATHPEFFER made a lunge at the winner close to home, bursting out of the back late in the race and running the winner to a half-length. GORGEOUS WIN had set a strong tempo up front but stuck on well in the closing stages as he held on for third, 2 lengths off the winner who looks to have plenty of upside.

Race 4 – BOCHK Asset Management Handicap, HK $1,170,000

Class 2 – Turf - Distance 1200m - Track Good to Firm
Time: 1:08.49 Standard Time: 1:08.80 Course/Class record: 1:07.89 Thanks Forever

Both John Size and Brenton Avdulla secured their second victories on the day as HELIOS EXPRESS (AUS 4yo g Toronado – Paris Texas) made it three wins in-a-row on his seasonal return. He was away only fairly, but Avdulla was able to get down to the rail and improve along the inside to be midfield in the running. He looked to be in a tricky spot turning for home but Avdulla was able to work through gaps at the top of the straight and eventually got into the clear with about 250m left to run. He had to knuckle down to grab the leader but he did just that, sticking his head in front in the final few strides to win by a beck at the finish in a very good return. PACKING TREADMILL was rated well out in front by Lyle Hewitson but was just out-gunned right on the post. Hewitson tried to make every post a winner and the overall time was well inside standard, a tempo which he set in front. A big effort to run second which shouldn’t be underestimated. FLYING ACE did what Flying Ace does, running on from the back and getting close, just not close enough. Favourite Lucky Encounter couldn’t go on after sitting outside the leader in running, tiring to finish in fifth.

Race 5 – BOCHK Wealth Management Handicap, HK $1,170,000

Class 4 – Turf - Distance 1400m - Track Good to Firm
Time: 1:21.62 Standard Time: 1:22.10 Course/Class record: 1:20.80 Perfect Pair

Avdulla quickly made it a trifecta for the afternoon as he steered home LOST CHILD (NZ 4yo g Swiss Ace – Loch Leven) to an easy victory. He jumped well from gate 4 but with speed drawn out wide, Avdulla found himself in the second half of the field on settling down. He travelled well in the run and as the field fanned heading into the straight, the Australian had plenty of backs to follow to give him a cart into the race. He peeled into the clear at the top of the straight and the gelding showed good speed to take the lead with about 275m remaining. He saw off his opponents close to the line and won very comfortably in the end, with the official margin being 1-1/2 lengths. EIGHTY LIGHT YEARS landed in a great spot off the draw, settling on the back of the leader from gate five and enjoyed a cosy run throughout. Turning for home, Jerry Chau moved away from the inside and into the clear, actually taking the lead momentarily before being rounded up by the eventual winner. He was no match close to home as the winner proved too good, pulling away from him late. CIRCUIT NINE settled right out he back after bombing the start under Matthew Chadwick. The local hoops caused some chaos when trying to get into the clear at the top of the straight, but once clear he rallied strongly to run into third.

Race 6 – BOC Credit Card Handicap, HK $2,050,000

Class 3 – Turf - Distance 2000m - Track Good to Firm
Time: 2:00.93 Standard Time: 2:01.95 Course/Class record: 2:00.37 Champion Supreme

Avdulla and Size combined once more, making it four wins on the day for Avdulla (and three in-a-row) and a treble for John Size with ENSUED (USA 3yo g Lemon Drop Kid – Alluvial Gold) getting the job done. It took a good piece of riding after the jump to see the gelding slot in midfield and one off the fence, after jumping from barrier 12 with a short run to the first turn. The pace was solid throughout, and the Australian found himself in a handy position. The field split in two as they turned off the back, with Avdulla 7 lengths off the leader with 800m to run, but the field did bunch back together as they turned into the straight. Avdulla swung wide turning for home and was making good headway down the centre of the track. He showed plenty of strength to outstay his rivals and show he’s ready to rumble when the 4YO Series kicks off. PACKING HURRICANE slid across from an outside barrier to land one-out-one-back in the run under Vincent Ho and was left in an awkward spot when the field broke in two down the back. He was under plenty of pressure prior to the turn but dug in gamely in the straight, hitting the front with 150m left to run. Ensued had pretty much been on his back throughout and ran over the top of him late, just missing by a neck. SWAN BAY was part of the breakaway pack and is another who stuck on well to finish in third spot.

Race 7 – The BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint, HK $5,350,000

Group Two – Turf - Distance 1200m - Track Good to Firm
Time: 1:21.69 Standard Time: 1:08.20 Course/Class record: 1:07.50 Sacred Kingdom

The first of the G2 features on the card and it was the World’s Best Sprinter LUCKY SWEYNESSE (NZ 5yo g Sweynesse – Madonna Mia) returning to the winner’s stall. He was only fairly out of the barriers and had to be roused along by Zac Purton to hold his position in the run. Purton would push into the box seat as they turned off the back straight, sitting close to a speed that was only fair through the middle stages. He was unable to match it with the leaders as the sprint went on at the top of the stretch, but the gelding knuckled down over the closing stages and showed his strength, getting over the top of his rivals to win by a neck on the line. VICTOR THE WINNER was once again able to do as he pleased out in front and kicked clear at the top of the straight when Teetan pushed the button. He took plenty of catching out in front, but couldn’t hold off Hong Kong’s sprinting champion. WELLINGTON returned in good order, now under the tutelage of Jamie Richards. A case could be made that he didn’t have the best of luck in the run after being slightly held up on the heels of Victor The Winner. It was a good return in preparation for HKIR, but all honours go to the winner.

Race 8 – The BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile, HK $5,350,000

Group Two – Turf - Distance 1600m - Track Good to Firm
Time: 1:33.04 Standard Time: 1:33.80 Course/Class record: 1:32.64 Beauty Generation

The Mile looked an interesting race on paper and it definitely ended up that way as BEAUTY ETERNAL (AUS 5yo g Starspangledbanner – Ithacan Queen) held on for a narrow victory. Zac Purton snagged the gelding back from the barrier to settle fourth and on the back of Voyage Bubble on settling down as the pace was quite good through the early stages. Purton slid into the box seat as the tempo slowed mid-race and had a back to follow heading into the straight, improving nicely around the turn and peeling out three-wide to lay down the gauntlet. He let rip strongly when Purton asked for an effort, taking the lead passing the 300m point. He looked as though he would go on and win, but he was forced to dig deep as a rival came after him close to home. He clung on to win by a short head on the line with Purton getting the bob in right on time. Owned by the same connections, BEAUTY JOY was the one to push Beauty Eternal close to the line. He was well out the back in running and was under pressure before most of his rivals, but just continued to find under the urgings of Derek Leung. The local hoop lost the whip at about the 250m point, but that didn’t matter as the gelding looked to find another gear once the whip was put away. He made a strong challenge for the win close to home but just couldn’t stick his nose in front. VOYAGE BUBBLE stuck on well to finish third, but was 4-1/2 lengths off the first two while California Spangle was very disappointing, finishing in fifth after jumping the odds-on favourite.

Race 9 – The BOCHK Jockey Club Cup, HK $5,350,000

Group Two – Turf – Distance 2000m - Track Good to Firm
Time: 2:01.84 Standard Time: 2:00.50 Course/Class record: 1:59.23 Romantic Warrior

The Jockey Club Cup was the most open of all the Group Two’s on the card, but STRAIGHT ARRON (AUS 5yo g Fastnet Rock – Imperial Lass) came out on top to win comfortably in the end. Despite jumping on terms, Vincent Ho snagged the gelding toward the back of the field, settling in second last position in the early stages. Approaching the halfway stage of the race, a mid-race move came from out wide, with Ho able to get off the inside rail and improve his position at the same time to be about midfield approaching the 800m point. He then moved three-wide with cover around the home turn and was still travelling strongly as he moved into the clear heading for home. The gelding sprinted well at the top of the straight and eventually wore down the leader to take control at the 100m point. He wasn’t going to be caught from there, going on to win by three-quarters of-a-length. SWORD POINT had been backed into favourite sat the jump and rolled forward to sit in second position in the run. The pace was only fair through the first half of the race, but clicked up a notch when the mid-race move came at about the 1100m. He looked to truck into the straight strongly and took the lead shortly after turning for home as Purton asked for an effort. He looked to be getting tired with about 100m to run and that’s when the winner pounced, but he stuck on well to hold on for second in a close finish for the minors. MONEY CATCHER had been paving the way out in front and kicked up to hold the lead which prompted the sharp rise in tempo. He stuck on gamely though to hold on for third in a photo finish.

Race 10 – BOCHK BOC Pay Handicap, HK $1,860,000

Class 3 – Turf – Distance 1200m - Track Good to Firm
Time: 1:08.65 Standard Time: 1:09.05 Course/Class record: 1:08.11 Victor The Winner

Pierre Ng has been on fire early in the season, but it took until race 10 for the local trainer and trainers’ premiership leader to land his first winner with GALAXY PATCH (AUS 4yo g Wandjina – Voltara). Karis Teetan got the gelding out of the barriers on terms but drifted back in the early stages as the pace up front was very strong. The field were strung out turning for home, but that gave Teetan an easy out into the clear at the top of the stretch as he began to mow down the front runners. He took the lead with 150m to run and pulled away in fantastic fashion, winning by 1-3/4 lengths in a very strong effort. THE HEIR made his Hong Kong debut and showed plenty as he charged home from the rear to grab second. He has won up to a mile in Australia prior to being sold to Hong Kong, so it is a great starting point as there is no doubt he’ll be targeted toward the 4YO Series. NORTHERN BEACHES had sat close to the hot tempo being set up front and was still there at the finish, ending up just 2 lengths off the winner under Zac Purton in an effort that must be commended.

Race 11 – BOCHK “Banking Trendytoo” Handicap, HK $1,860,00

Class 3 – Turf – Distance 1400m – Track Good to Firm
Time: 1:22.17 Standard Time: 1:21.80 Course/Class Record: 1:20.62 Preciousship

Antoine Hamelin and Douglas Whyte closed out the card with an impressive display from TAMRA BLITZ (IRE 4yo g Fascinating Rock – Ajaadat). The gelding wasn’t the cleanest away from the barriers but mustered good speed to settle in behind the leaders with the pace only fair. He was a little keen with the tempo only moderate, but settled much better around the turn with Hamelin right on the leader’s tail. The leader kicked strongly at the top of the straight which allowed the Frenchman to follow him through along the inside, avoiding the weakening runner. He came off heels at the 300m point and knuckled down strongly to take the lead inside the final 50m and proved too strong in the closing stages, winning by 1-1/4 lengths with a wall of runners chasing. LET’S DO IT burst up the inside in the straight to claim second after a smart ride from Teetan. He barely went around another horse as he claimed second with CHIU CHOW SPIRIT also ducking up the inside to claim third in a photo finish.

Straight Arron and Vincent Ho, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club