DAY TWO of the Cheltenham Festival may hold centre stage for racing enthusiasts this afternoon, but don’t miss out on the tasty hors d’oeuvre served up at Happy Valley.
This is a big week for Hong Kong racing, with the climax being Sunday’s 2018 HK Derby. It’s worth around £1.6million in prize-money, and is run at Sha Tin. Be sure to read the preview of this hotly-contested Group One in Friday’s paper.
Back at Happy Valley, racing takes place on the ‘B Track’ which has proved notorious challenging for horses drawn with high numbers.
Over the last three seasons horses hailing from a double-digit draw have recorded single-figure wins, notably in six-furlong and extended mile races.
This is because there is only a short run to the first bend over both distances and horses drawn high either have to work very hard to get a prominent position from the off or face being caught wide for most of the race, thereby diminishing their chances.
As I have said before, if you fancy a horse with a high draw number, make sure he is ridden by one of the top jockeys like Joao Moreira, Zac Purton, or Nash Rawiller who are sufficiently skilled and talented to get into a good position, wherever they line-up from.
The opening contest over six furlongs gives top-weight RAICHU a great opportunity to secure an overdue success.
This David Ferraris-trained five-year-old has had plenty of excuses in all five runs around the Valley this season, either being drawn wide, or dashing too late down the home stretch.
Last month he found the minimum five-furlong trip too sharp, failing to catch the runaway leader who set the pace and won from the front.
Now, back up to his optimum distance, he should be ideally placed to stalk the early speed from the start and then make the most of his impressive finishing kick.
The best proposition of the afternoon could prove to be GOUTEN OF GARO (11.15pm). This lightly-raced New Zealand-bred gelding has been steadily progressing in all his four runs since November.
His sire, American bred Per Incanto, was a winner half-a-dozen times over six and seven furlongs and has already sired a Group One winner in a short career at stud.
Lack of experience counted against him when he tried his luck over the minimum distance at both Sha Tin and the Valley in his first three runs.
It was only in his latest race, when stepped up in distance to today’s six furlongs that the penny dropped, and he was noted flashing home to finish third from an outside draw in an impressive closing sectional time.
There is no doubt he is going to improve again, especially with trainer Chris So back in form, and jockey Neill Callan certain to produce his trademark power-packed finish.
With most of his main rivals drawn wide, he is mapped to get an ideal journey in midfield and make his dash for glory turning into the home stretch. He will hopefully start at attractive odds and could prove hard to beat.
Raichu 11:15am Happy Valley
Gouten Of Garo 1.15pm Happy Valley