HAPPY Valley will be packed to the rafters this afternoon when racing resumes at the inner-city track after a week off.
This is the start of the annual three meeting Oktoberfest, where revellers can enjoy and taste an abundance of German amber liquids in the Beer Garden at the midweek party, as well as searching for winners.
On the racing front, results continue to prove difficult to predict, with all 10 favourites sunk without trace at Sha Tin on Saturday.
This brings the total to only 10 market leaders obliging from 46 races since racing resumed in Hong Kong at the beginning of the month.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the gambling mad locals who consistently take the view, “if in doubt follow Purton”, have seen their hero and reigning champ Zac Purton ride only a handful of winners, but worse still, finish runner-up 14 times – 33 per cent of his total rides.
With no rain since the Super Typhoon Mangkhut passed over the city 10 days ago, ground conditions at Happy Valley are likely to ride quick again, which is going to suit horses up with the pace from the off and with low numbered draws.
This afternoon’s racing is on the ‘C+3’ course, which only measures 18.5m in width and has just enough room to get the starting stalls across the track.
For obvious reasons, strong finishing horses are going to need plenty of good fortune to get an uninterrupted passage.
The Racing Club-owned YOUNG EMPIRE, who lines up in Race 3 (1.15pm) over 6f, is one horse who fits the criteria as a potential winner.
For UK racing students who have good memories, this former Richard Hannon-trained juvenile, known as Age Of Empire, beat subsequent Classic winner Galileo Gold at York, and finished sixth in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Since starting a new life in Hong Kong, the Royal Applause gelding has never been able to reach the dizzy heights of his exploits in the UK, but nevertheless has won three times, all over the track and trip, including on the tricky C+3 course.
Last season, he won on his seasonal reappearance from a 9lb higher mark in the handicap, and against better company than he meets here.
With a low draw adding a major positive to his chances, and with his blistering early speed guaranteed to have him up near the front from the off, he is going to be difficult to beat.
Young Empire’s pilot, Sicilian born Alberto Sanna, has a chance of further success when he teams up with the David Ferraris-trained top-weight BREEDERS’ STAR in the 6f handicap at 3.20pm.
This four-time track and trip winner was desperately unlucky when finding his passage blocked when unleashing a strong finishing kick behind Eighty Eighty a fortnight ago.
There is no doubt he would have gone close to winning with a clear run. Unfortunately, he comes with a ‘wealth warning’ because his normal style of racing of dashing fast and late down the home stretch means he is going to need plenty of luck on this track.
Still, he should be a nice price and is worth taking a chance on.
Young Empire 1.15pm Happy Valley
Breeders’ Star e/w 3.20pm Happy Valley