Michael Cox



The Sha Tin Report – September 25

Michael Cox identifies the key form factors ahead of Sunday's ten-race card at Sha Tin, a meeting that signals the return of budding star California Spangle.

Track: Good 

Rail: C

Weather: 31 degrees; sunny periods and isolated showers.

A Celebration or one-act affair?

The Group 3 Celebration Cup usually signals the return of a star but this year’s edition lacks quality or quantity, seemingly leaving the race at the mercy of California Spangle

The list of previous winners of this race contains a host of true superstars, some of them on the way up like Lucky Nine in 2010 – or a returning superstar like Ambitious Dragon a year later. Beauty Generation won the race three times in a row from 2017 through 2019 before Golden Sixty continued the trend. 

As well as top line talent, the race would be one of depth as well: between 2007 and 2020 the average field size was 12.9 but last year it dropped into single figures for the first time since the race was elevated to Group status. 

This year’s six runners is a new low. It shows just how thin Hong Kong’s top ranks are. 

California Spangle (R3 #2) will start odds-on and should easily handle this first-up assignment on his way to a potential clash with Golden Sixty. 

Small fields can present a tempo trap at times but California Spangle’s versatility – he can lead or take a sit – will help, especially in the hands of Zac Purton. 

It's a big day for...

Frankie Lor 

Winning a Hong Kong trainer’s championship is difficult but winning another in the following season is even harder. 

The depth of quality Frankie Lor is throwing at the fifth meeting of the season is a sign that he could be the first trainer not named John Size to repeat as champion this century. 

Of course the comparisons with Size – Lor’s former mentor – abound, but Lor is standing out on his own two feet as a trainer with unique qualities. 

Lor not only excels at progressing Private Purchase Griffins through the grades, but keeps older horses running consistently and has a knack with high-rated Private Purchases as well. 

Something that is clear early this term is that Lor has the depth to keep rolling off the back of last season’s breakthrough title. 

Lor is one from 20 from the first four meetings but sends 10 runners to the races on Sunday, nine of them first-up and many of them with top chances. 


Zac Purton and Frankie Lor. (Photo by Getty Images)

From the trials

Two of Lor’s most promising runners confirmed they are fit and in form in the same trial on September 13. Youthful Deal (Race 6) and Adios (Race 7) finished one-two in a 1050m dirt trial and looked in great order ahead of their returns. 

The hot combo

Lyle Hewitson and Douglas Whyte have formed a lethal combination and after a double at Happy Valley the South Africans team up with four runners. 

The best of the quartet is Double Show (R4 #9), who returns for his four-year-old campaign off a good trial. 

The claimer

New apprentice Angus Chung, who is only licenced to ride at Sha Tin, got his first win last weekend and his claim looks well used on Class 5 hope Lucky Victor (R2 #4). 

All three of Lucky Victor’s wins have been in that grade on the dirt and 10-pounds off is a huge luxury. 

Purton’s booking Pakistan Zindabad (#13) will bring market attention. He rode the horse in its most recent dirt trial and it seems a switch to this surface could turn things around. 

Trainer Caspar Fownes has made interesting use of Chung’s ten pounds on The Hulk (R5 #2) in a competitive Class 4. 

The apprentice takes over from Karis Teetan on a horse that zipped home for second behind Victor The Winner on opening day. 

Key gear changes

R2 #12 London Luckystar – Blinkers back on 

R10 #10 Eason – Blinkers first time



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