REGULAR Hong Kong punters face a headache when racing resumes at Happy Valley this afternoon.
It’s tough enough trying to find winners around this sharp and turning circuit, but when racing takes place on the notorious ‘C+3’ track, which is just wide enough to get a dozen starting stalls across the course, luck is going to play an even more important part.
With the home stretch measuring just over one-and-a-half-furlongs from the final bend, it’s going to be difficult for both horses and jockeys to negotiate a clear passage when making their late charge for glory.
Suffice it to say, a horse with a profile of being up with the early pace from the off and coming from a low draw is going to have a distinct advantage over its rivals come race-time.
Statistics support this view, with horses drawn low in both five-furlong and six-furlong races having a good record over the last three seasons.
For example, the inside number stall in six-furlong races has a win rate of more than 20 per cent, while the outside draw has just two per cent success.
Confidence is a key word for anyone associated with racing in Hong Kong and 23-year-old claiming rider Matthew Poon has plenty of that at present.
The former Australian champion apprentice has been the go-to claimer for punters since arriving with the nickname ‘The Poon Train’ in Hong Kong back in March 2017, and now needs just one more winner to lose his claim.
He’s faced a few hiccups along the way, having felt the wrath of the stewards on numerous occasions, but arrives at Happy Valley in top form after riding a treble at Sha Tin on Sunday.
His most interesting ride is when he teams up with rookie trainer Jimmy Ting on GLORY STAR in the opener over the extended mile at 12.15pm.
Rookie trainer Ting has already taken Hong Kong racing by storm since the season started in September.
He is currently sitting joint top of the trainers’ championship with a staggering 11 winners and seven placings from just 37 runners.
Glory Star made his seasonal appearance over the track and trip last December when making all and putting clear daylight between himself and his rivals – just under four lengths – in impressive fashion.
He hasn’t yet reproduced that form in subsequent tries, but now finds himself back in the bottom grade from just a 1lb higher mark.
If that wasn’t enough, both Poon and Ting have only combined three times this season and boast a 100 per cent record.
Another jockey who continues to have confidence pulsing through his veins is Karis Teetan.
The Mauritian-born rider has already ridden a dozen winners in October and should extend that total before the month is out.
Teetan is booked for half-a-dozen rides at the Valley, and will be hoping for back-to-back successes when he resumes his winning partnership on the Tony Cruz-trained BLITZING in the 2.45pm over six furlongs.
This progressive New Zealand-bred four-year-old overcame a tough transit from draw 11 when winning on only his fifth start over the track and trip a fortnight ago.
A 5lb penalty is fair, especially since he is now housed in the prime stall.
Glory Star 12.15pm Happy Valley
Blitzing 2.45pm Happy Valley