INDEPENDENT HORSE RACING NEWS

The Happy Valley Report – September 28

Michael Cox dissects Wednesday night's eight-race card as jockey Zac Purton looks to extend his championship lead under the Happy Valley lights.

Track: Good 

Rail:

Weather: Hot; 31 degrees celsius.

"So who is coming in second?"

When Boston Celtics basketball superstar Larry Bird walked into the locker room before the 1988 three-point shootout, he asked a room full of all-stars “who is coming in second?” 

His rivals rattled, the master ‘trash talker’ proceeded to win a third straight shoot-out without even taking off his warm-up jacket. 

When five-time Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton turns up to the Happy Valley jockeys’ room on Wednesday, he might be tempted to borrow Bird’s turn-of-phrase. 

It will be a room without Purton’s key rival and 2021-22 runner-up Joao Moreira – sidelined for at least three months and his future in doubt – as well as last season’s third-placegetter Karis Teetan, out with a thyroid complaint. 

If Purton is asking who will come second – we shouldn’t forget it will be him coming first – then the Australian could be about to put some serious numbers together. 

Yet Wednesday’s meeting doesn’t look like a particularly dominant book of rides for the Australian, who was a $3.50 Jockey Challenge favourite on race morning. 

A host of awkward draws and some competitive races make it difficult to see Purton collecting a hatful of winners but he does have a solid book. 

Barrier draw aside, Purton’s best is Compassion Super (R4 No.4). At least the wide draw is providing a price: expect many of Purton’s rides to be heavily bet as the rank-and-file zero in on his obvious top picks. 

Badel the sleeping giant?

So in the words of Larry Bird, and probably Purton – who can produce a pointed piece of trash talk as well as any sportsman – ‘who is coming in second?’ 

There is an exciting group of young jockeys at the moment wanting to take that next step; Lyle Hewitson, Luke Ferraris and Harry Bentley all finished mid-table within seven wins of one another last season but will want to go higher. 

Then there is the man who has already been through the process that trio is enduring, logging 50 and 58 wins in his last two seasons. 

If Badel can maintain his relationship with John Size, and a winner on Sunday at Sha Tin would have helped that cause, the 32-year-old Frenchman could make a serious move up the table this year. 

Badel had three horses that were favourites in early betting but Super Hong Kong (R2 No.5) for the Tony Millard stable stands out. 

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Alexis Badel celebrates winning the G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize aboard Wellington. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit/Getty Images)

Valley turnaround?

Dennis Yip’s insipid Happy Valley record has been covered here in this space before but dare we say it: the trainer has a very strong hand, boosted by low barrier draws. 

A reminder of Yip’s record at the city track since the start of last season: four wins from 199 starts. 

So it is with some trepidation that we point to a Yip runner that has reached its mark and is well-drawn: Flash Famous (R1 No.8). 

Later on, Hercules (R4 No.8) looks to have a good chance of being there for the win and Super Winner (R6 No.6), with Purton in the saddle, also has a great chance to turn Yip’s horrendous stats around.

From the trials

Flaming Passion (R7 No.8) has not only come up with a draw but heads into the 1200m Class 3 after a strong Happy Valley trial. In the same race, David Hayes has given Super Eagle (R7 No.7) three trials heading into his Hong Kong debut.

The stat

Horses drawn barrier four or lower on the C course have won 59.8 per cent of all 1200m races at the Valley over the last two seasons.

It's a big night for...

Luke Currie

At the end of last season, Luke Currie went on a run that suggested he had carved out a space in the competitive jockey ranks. 

Currie booted home a winner at his first ride in Hong Kong in January and after being sidelined for 18 meetings, he returned to add eight wins to close the term.

What Currie would not have seen coming is a zero for 27 starts to kick off the season. 

Currie spoke to Asian Racing Report after the races on Sunday and isn’t panicking, but he was aware of the growing run of outs. The Australian is experienced enough not to let the pressure change his style but he also needs a pressure-relieving win. 

Last-start winner Amazing Boy (R3 No.10), on which he takes over from the suspended Silvestre de Sousa, could be the one.

Key gear changes

R1 No.1 Bell Of Victory – blinkers off 

R5 No.5 Island Shine – blinkers off 

R5 No.6 Six Best Friends – blinkers on

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