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.
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...
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.