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All eyes will be on Joao Moreira as the Brazilian superstar returns to race day riding at Sha Tin on Sunday, while Alex Badel will be looking to break through for trainer John Size.
Rail: “B” course
Track: Turf good , Dirt
Weather: Very hot and dry during the day. Top of 34 degrees.
Suspended jockeys: Ruan Maia (returns September 19)
It seems John Size has found his new go-to man, for now, in the form of Alex Badel but the French jockey will be anxious to boost his strike rate with the 11-time champion.
One of the most compelling storylines late last season was the thawing in Size’s relationship with Joao Moreira, with whom he had combined for 365 wins at 21.1%.
Before Moreira, Size struck up a fruitful partnership with the 13-time champion rider Douglas Whyte (375 wins at 19.5%).
Even further back, early in Size’s time at Sha Tin, the legendary Shane Dye was the number one rider for the stable and rode 128 winners at 15.1%.
As it stands, Badel is getting the volume of rides the stable’s number one selection would get but his strike rate is lagging behind those legends, albeit with a smaller sample size so far.
Badel has been aboard six of Size’s 12 runners at the first two meetings and has yet to notch a win, both for the stable and overall in 17 rides (equal most rides for any jockey).
Of Size’s last 100 runners, Badel has ridden 33 and won on just three and the duo’s strike rate together since first teaming up in the 2019-20 season is 11% (16 wins from 146 rides).
Badel hasn’t been Size’s de facto stable jockey during most of that time, so a lower win rate is understandable, but the top tier rides for the stable are starting to come now and that brings higher expectations.
Size has four runners with four different jockeys booked Sunday, and Badel is on the one who is likely to start shortest: the progressive four-year-old Bundle of Charm (Race 7).
Zac Purton opened up the throttle on Bundle of Charm to win by 4.75-lengths in June and it resulted in a 14-point rise in the ratings. That type of leap is a test and Badel will need to be at his best.
There’s no need to be too clever with this one. Moreira has missed the first two meetings of the season and his absence has fueled the usual round of rumour mongering among the obsessive followers of racing in Hong Kong.
For now, the Magic Man is locked in, and it is clear he is in relationship-building mode to start the season.
Caspar Fownes has thrown his considerable weight behind Moreira by booking the Brazilian for five rides, although they look a moderate bunch.
The rides for Fownes are more about laying a foundation for the future. Purton hasn’t ridden for Fownes since last year’s Celebration Cup, when Southern Legend ran unplaced, and another of the trainer’s key riders Blake Shinn has left town. Moreira, who has no rides for Size on the day, is positioning himself as Fownes’ main man.
Putting aside the rides for Fownes, Moreira’s best chance on the day is for Manfred Man, E Brother in Race 3.
Three meetings in and we are seeing our first horses running twice this season. David Hall is patient but he can also be bold and inventive with his placement of horses. He is looking to strike while the iron is hot with Irish import Pride of Eight (Race 6), which flashed home for fifth on opening day over 1200m.
Hall has stepped the three-year-old up to 1400m and will be hoping his horse has a fitness edge on his rivals.
Nobody has had more runners than Danny Shum’s 21 so far this term, and he sends another five to the races on Sunday, so it is no surprise to see him back-up Class 5 bottom dweller Zacian (Race 2) after it zipped home in the second race of the season. Like Hall, Shum has stepped straight from 1200m to 1400m on the seven day back-up.
Chris So finally found Super Win Dragon’s sweet spot late last season – the 1200m dirt – even if the horse’s run pattern will always make life difficult for him there.
The first dirt races of the season will be on Sunday and So has booked the in-form rider Luke Ferraris.
Super Win Dragon has to come from difficult positions back in the field but he struck a rich vein of form on the surface last season and his best is good enough here.
G One Excellent had been knocking on the door in Class 5 for Dennis Yip and it would simply seem a matter of time before he found his ratings mark, but new trainer Danny Shum has opted for something different first-up.
Shum has based the stable transfer’s preparation entirely out of Conghua, including a sharp trial with blinkers back on at the mainland facility.
Blinkers on and stepping up in trip can be a recipe for disaster. The challenge for Harry Bentley after drawing barrier one will be to use the gate but not have G One Excellent overrace.
Red Desert – Blinkers first-time
G One Excellent – Blinkers back on
Amazing News – Pacifiers with cowls
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