HAPPY Valley hosts a fiendishly difficult eight-race programme today where it will be hard to predict who will start favourite in the majority of races, never mind who is going to win them!
The big news to come out of Hong Kong racing this week was that ‘Magic Man’ jockey Joao Moreira will be sidelined for at least three months while he undergoes therapy to his troublesome left hip, worn out through stress and injury.
That is a major blow to the many thousands of supporters of the former four-time Champion Jockey who have followed the Brazilian blindly over the last decade.
With 39-year-old Moreira out of the equation, it obviously leaves the way clear for Zac Purton to claim his sixth jockeys’ title, even at this early stage of the season.
The omens look good already with the Aussie riding at the top of his game, and already having a 25 percent win-strike record of 11 victories from just 44 rides.
As per norm, the ‘Zac-Man’ has his card marked in all eight races, and although his huge fan club are guaranteed to be queueing up to back his rides, even Purton would be the first to admit that nothing stands out as a sure-fire winner.
Bearing that in mind, it may pay to look elsewhere for some value, starting with the Tony Millard-trained SUPER HONG KONG, who gets his chance to record his second win at the city track, in the Sai Ying Pun Handicap (12.45pm) over nine furlongs.
His form figures suggest he can be an in-an-out performer on his day, but at his best he is capable of leaving his handicap mark well behind.
His current record of a win and a second from just two runs over course and distance suggest he has a liking for the trip, and a recent trial, where the jockey found it hard to pull him up after the post, indicates he is fresh and fit for his seasonal debut.
Stable companion Enchanting Ibis, who would have been ridden by Moreira, in Division 2 of the Admiralty Handicap (3.15pm) over six-furlongs, is another who looks thrown in at the weights, judged on how much he looks to have improved during the summer break.
This ex-Australian and lightly-raced four-year-old, a winner on his second start at Sha Tin in April despite needing time to acclimatise, has had work-watchers purring in recent weeks.
Unfortunately, an awkward draw scuppers enthusiasm, and he is going to need plenty of luck.
Harry Bentley, who rides Enchanting Ibis, may have better fortune when he climbs aboard progressive COMET SPLENDIDO in the Wan Chai Handicap (3.50pm) over nine furlongs.
This former three-time winner in the UK has had no luck in all three runs in Hong Kong, suffering either tough or impeded journeys.
He is surely a winner without a penalty and with some luck can finally get on the scoresheet.
Super Hong Kong 12.45pm Happy Valley
Comet Splendido 3.50pm Happy Valley