HAPPY Valley hosts its first meeting of 2019 today and favourite-backers will be hoping it proves as profitable as the Sha Tin action on New Year’s Day.
Eight of the market leaders came home in front during the 11-race card.
However, that hasn’t been a regular occurrence in Hong Kong this season.
Especially at Happy Valley, where just 22 per cent of favourites have won, compared to the average 30 per cent strike rate for the most fancied runners.
One combination that bettors did dine out on over the Christmas and New Year period has been the Joao Moreira and John Size partnership which is presently firing on all cylinders.
‘Magic Man’ Moreira has partnered six winners from his last 14 rides for the champion trainer, while Size has saddled 11 winners and 11 places from his last 40 runners.
Moreira, who already boasts a 48 per cent strike rate on favourites since his return to Hong Kong last month, teams up with Size in half-a-dozen races at the Valley this afternoon and will prove popular with punters.
Special Stars (12.45pm) may have been a costly failure when beaten in a photo on Boxing Day, but he should make no mistake this time, especially with the inside draw to help.
The progressive Country Star is another who will be short odds to extend his course-and-distance streak to four when he lines-up in the finale at 2.50pm.
However, both will start at prohibitive odds and there are more attractive betting propositions during the afternoon.
The 1.15pm over the extended mile looks a match between Happy Warrior and Chaparral Star, who finished second and third behind Polymer Luck on Boxing Day.
Happy Warrior was very unlucky that day, finding himself looking for clear daylight while the winner got first run down the home stretch.
The handicapper obviously thought so too, upping his rating by 4lbs.
His regular rider Douglas Whyte has been unceremoniously dispatched to the sidelines, and in-form jockey Silvestre de Sousa takes over in the saddle.
There is no doubt, from stall three, he has a favourite’s chance, but drawn next to him is the potentially smart CHARITY GRAND.
This lightly-raced son of successful sire Exceed and Excel looked in need of the run when a highly promising fifth on his seasonal reappearance at Sha Tin over seven furlongs last month.
He is bred to appreciate the step-up in distance and has already shown his liking for the tight Valley turns by winning a trial here in early December.
With trainer Danny Shum’s stable in good form at present, having saddled three winners last week, Charity Grand is capable of going close to adding to that tally.
Kwaichung Brothers will be strongly fancied to follow up last month’s comfortable track-and-trip success when he lines up in the opening event over the extended mile at 11.15am.
However, better value may be found with GOLDEN CANNON, who suffered a desperate run when only fifth in that race, but is now 6lbs better off with the winner and did win in January last year from a 2lb higher mark.
Golden Cannon e/w 11.15am Happy Valley
Charity Grand e/w 1.15pm Happy Valley