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Sha Tin post-mortem: Wind plus ‘C + 3’ equals caution

The Prophet of Probability warns that conditions for last Sunday’s fixture on Sha Tin’s “C + 3” make future form assessments out of the meeting a minefield.

Sunday’s meeting on the tricky ‘C + 3’ course was always going to be challenging, but then there were 15 first starters and another five Hong Kong debutants. If that wasn’t enough, a blustery northerly played havoc with results. Let’s break down what to take – and what to leave – from the eight turf races. 

For the newcomers, let’s start with an intro to the ‘C + 3’, the smallest circuit that can be raced on at Sha Tin. The rail is moved out 12.2 metres and leaves just 18.3 metres of track to race on. Unlike the Sha Tin ‘A’ course, or ‘true’ position, leaders and on-pace runners often have an advantage. Unless of course something peculiar occurs. 

Sunday was one of those peculiar days. The weather bureau forecast was ominous: fine but cool with fresh to strong northerly winds, occasionally up to gale force on high ground and offshore. It was to play a significant part in reversing the usual pattern, and the signs came early. 

The punters got the first race right when Joyful Genius ($2.60 fav) powered home out wide. The placegetters also ran on from rearward, but both were well in the market, so there were no real surprises there. The sectional times were more revealing. The early sections were slick –  six or seven lengths above standard – but the last two 400m sections were slow. The last 400m was more than a second outside of standard – that equates to more than six lengths. 

This pattern was to continue for the first seven races on the card. The forecast winds caused a headwind in the straight and it was clear that leaders and horses close to the speed were at some disadvantage, and horses running on after racing with cover were suited. 

So what do we take away from this? I would suggest there are some horses who may have looked disappointing at face value, but it may pay to be kind to them for their performance from the weekend, and some I would suggest you be careful with next time. 

So what to make of some of the winners and disappointments? There is a lot to break down as far as the first-starters are concerned. 

There were six newcomers in race two alone, and one of them, Holy Power, provided a much-needed breakthrough for first-year trainer Jamie Richards. 

Richards made no secret that he was going to ease into Hong Kong racing and his forecast that “come December we should be starting to hit our straps” is proving quite accurate. After a slow start Richards has now trained four winners from the last ten meetings, and his patience obviously paid off with Holy Power. 

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Trainer Jamie Richards observing proceedings at Sha Tin Racecourse. (Photo by Getty Images)

Holy Power came to Hong Kong via New Zealand, where he had seven barrier trials, then had another four in Hong Kong. He hadn’t ‘won’ any of those trials but had sprung to life with blinkers on in his final lead-up trial, splitting a couple of Class 3 horses for second. 

They don’t pay prizemoney for trials though and Holy Power certainly picked the right day to hit the line first. He may have a bright future and could be open to improvement, but personally, I will be a little wary of the results of this race given the headwind discussed earlier. 

The following race saw eight more novices take to the stage and the top two picks – Excellent Fighter and Ka Ying Warrior – had very solid credentials based on trial performances, but they had opposing outcomes. 

Excellent Fighter had won all three of his trials in smart fashion and was well found by punters as the $2 favourite. Jockey Jye McNeil, in search of his first win at his 41st ride, had plenty of concerning moments but was able to push clear late. It couldn’t come soon enough with McNeil’s licence set to expire after Wednesday’s meeting at Happy Valley. 

Then there was Dennis Yip’s Ka Ying Warrior. He had also shown enormous ability from his previous trials, winning two and finishing second in his third. He was unfortunately scratched on race morning on November 27, when he was likely to start favourite, due to a swollen right foreleg. 

Ka Ying Warrior subsequently trialled at Sha Tin but half reared as the gates opened and was then restrained throughout by Zac Purton, and thus never disclosed his wares.

Come Sunday many punters thought they were stealing money at the $5.20 available at jump time, however it was a replay of the trial: he was slow away, and with Purton aboard, he was not let out of a canter down the straight with the fear, he was amiss. Punters did their money cold, but this galloper has shown far too much in trials, so we hope with the right care, he will return to the racetrack soon. Stewards ordered him back for a series of trials to prove his fitness. 

Capital Legend made it three first-timers for the day when he saluted in the 1200m Class 3. He had previously raced under the care of John Sadler in Victoria, where he was a maiden but qualified for Hong Kong with a fourth in the G3 Carbine Club Stakes on Derby Day at Flemington. His performance needs to be considered carefully: he had protection from the headwind, so the result may have been a little flattering.

Overall, on days like Sunday, with a significant disadvantage to some horses, it’s wise to tread with caution when it comes to future assessments. Others that may have had their ‘birthday’ include Joyful Genius, Kasi Farasi and Lightning Bolt, who, to me, is unlikely to strike twice. 

We won’t just be marking horses down though, there are a few horses I would be particularly kind to based on the disadvantage they had due to raceday conditions, namely, Splendid Living, Star of Yuen Long and Pulsar Strider. I also think Youthful Deal backers can consider themselves unlucky. 

For mine, the jury is out on Midori Beauty. Although he was not afforded clear running, he strikes me as a horse that has ‘had enough’ on the line each start, a trait I find most concerning. 

 

FOLLOW

Splendid Living

Star Of Yuen Long

Pulsar Strider

Youthful Deal

 

TREAT WITH CAUTION

Joyful Genius

Kasi Farasi

Lightning Bolt

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