By David Morgan
Sha Tin’s 10-race card on Sunday (18 September) showcases a number of Hong Kong’s emerging talents, among them an internet hit and an increasingly lauded debuting sale-topper, and the day’s Class 2 standout, the Yeung Uk Handicap (1000m), features a trio with upward potential - Bad Boy, Racing Supernova and Adventurer.
Bad Boy comes with the added glitz of a movie-star connection, kung fu icon Donnie Yen, who owns the John Moore-trained four-year-old in partnership with his brother-in-law, Karson Choi.
“I hope we can take Bad Boy into Class One and into Group races, eventually,” said Moore of the gelding, a two-time winner from four starts in Hong Kong, all at 1000m. “He’ll be slightly underdone for his first start of the season but there’s plenty of upside to him. He’s looking like he might be an out-and-out 1000-metre horse but we’re hoping that’s not the case.”
Bad Boy will carry 131lb in Sunday’s 14-runner contest, and heads into his first start of the campaign off a 1050m barrier trial on 6 September, in which he ran home seventh of 12 on an all-weather track rated wet slow.
“I was happy with the trial because I didn’t want him knocked around, he didn’t need a hard trial considering the track only opened on August 1st,” said Moore.
Sam Clipperton was in the plate for that trial and will take the reins again on race day. The young Australian broke his Hong Kong duck in last Sunday’s opener and doubled up atop the Moore-trained Rewarding Flyer mid-card.
“Sam had a good day last Sunday with the two wins and I’m sure he will do well in Hong Kong,” Moore said. “He’s a boy that wants to get on with things, he’s got a nice character about him and disposition, and he’s got that right attitude to do well here; and of course he has the ability itself.”
Chris So has made a good start to the season with four wins on the board after three meetings. The trainer looks to Racing Supernova (122lb), a smart debut winner at the course and distance back in February under Zac Purton. The Duporth gelding failed to win in three subsequent starts, placing second twice and then fourth at his most recent outing - when a 1.9 chance - over 1200m at Sha Tin in June.
Purton is back aboard the five-year-old in a race for the first time since start two, having partnered in the same 1050m all-weather trial as Bad Boy last week, the two horses finishing in close proximity.
“He’s coming back to the (straight) track and distance where he’s been most successful,” said Hong Kong’s former Champion Jockey. “He was probably a touch disappointing towards the end of last season and his barrier trial this season probably wasn’t the best either, but it was around a corner and it was on the dirt, so it’s hard to get too much of a line through that. I’m hoping that coming back to a straight track, and on the grass, will bring the best back out of him.
“He was a bit immature and it was all happening very quickly for him last season,” continued Purton, “he was squeezed a bit and he just looked like he got a little bit lost. But he’s had the benefit of that break now and hopefully he’s all right. He feels fine in the mornings and he did show quite a bit of talent last season, so hopefully we’ll see him back to that.”
The Me Tsui-trained Adventurer has been on a rapid ascent since the spring and completed a hat-trick when scoring an impressive Class 3 win down Sha Tin’s straight 1000m at the season’s opening fixture. That came under apprentice Jack Wong, who will again take off a handy 7lb for this first attempt at Class 2. Adventure is set to carry 111lb.
“It could be a little bit too much for the horse,” Tsui said. “When he won first-up his time was fast, but the horses he beat are only Class Three horses, they are not that good - there was less than half a length from the second to the sixth horse.
“Winning in Class Three is very different to Class Two. He did it very easily last time but he had just jumped from Class Four and now he is jumping to Class Two. You don’t see many horses do that within six months.
“The pacing of the race in Class Two is different; they will go faster, so we will see how he goes. It is very hard for a horse to go up fourteen pounds like that, rise up a class, and still win again,” noted the trainer.
All eyes will be on Pakistan Star (126lb) in the Class 3 Tsuen Lok Handicap. The Tony Cruz-trained three-year-old’s stunning debut win went viral back in July. That detached last to first victory came in a 1200m contest restricted to griffins, and on Sunday the well-bred Shamardal gelding, a graduate of the March Hong Kong International Sale, will step into open handicap company and up to 1400m for the first time.
Matthew Chadwick piloted Pakistan Star to his unlikely first-up win and was in the plate for an impressive barrier trial at Happy Valley on 2 September, in which the brown gelding cruised powerfully to second behind the smart Dynamism.
“He’s progressed through the summer break and he’s filled out a bit, so I think he’s come on mentally and he’s more into his racing now. It’s looking good going forward,” said Chadwick, before offering some words of caution about the youngster.
“I think he’ll start to show his best over the mile and further,” he said. “There’s been a lot of hype about him but people need to remember he only raced against griffins. This season, for all the improvement he’s made physically and mentally, he still has to show it on the race track. I think it will be a stern test for him this weekend because it’s not a pushover field when you break it down.
“Also, we’re on the C+3 course, which often suits horses that are on the pace and he gets back, so it’ll be a good test for him to see if he’s ready to handle himself in this grade,” Chadwick continued. “The distance is a bit short for him but he’s fresh first-up and he should run well. All being well, given the class he seems to have, it could be that he could win. Hopefully, his class will show.”
Debut for Jing Jing Win
Another March sale graduate to have set tongues wagging is the David Hall-trained Jing Jing Win. Owner Liu Yu Wen splashed out a session-topping HK$8.5 million for the Starcraft gelding, and, if his work so far is anything to go by, that could prove to be money well spent. The athletic bay will debut under Purton in Sunday’s Class 4 Hoi Pa Handicap over 1200m, rated 52 to start with and carrying 126lb.
“He’s a nice horse, he has a good action, he’s well-balanced, he’s been going nicely in the mornings and his trials have been nice as well,” said Purton.
The rider has been in the saddle for much of Jing Jing Win’s fast work since he moved into the Hall stable, including both of the gelding’s barrier trials to date. The most recent of those, on 2 September, produced an eye-catching display as the Australian-bred travelled through a 1000m turf trial with effortless enthusiasm.
“They always talk about the highest-priced horse at the sale,” Purton said, referencing the bubbling expectations around the unraced four-year-old, “so we’ll let them talk and we’ll let the horse do what he does and see how far he takes us.”
The 10-race card will commence at 1pm with the Class 5 Chung On Handicap (1650m, all-weather) and will conclude with the Tsuen Lok Handicap at 5.45pm.
Bad Boy cruises to victory down the Sha Tin straight course late last season.
Pakistan Star lands an eye-catching Hong Kong debut win with Matthew Chadwick on board.