PUNTERS may need to tread warily when racing resumes in Hong Kong, with an eight-race programme at Happy Valley today.
With a tropical rainstorm dumping nearly 490mms, or around 19inches of water last weekend, and another rain cyclone homing in on the territory, you can safely assume the word firm is unlikely to figure in track conditions come race time.
The draw will once again play a significant role in pointing to winners. Low numbers have historically always had a decided advantage in six-furlong and extended mile races, and this could be even more pronounced if the rain gets into the turf.
One horse that will relish soft is the David Hall-trained SUN OF MAKFI, who takes his chance in Division Two of the Quarry Bay Handicap (12.45pm) over the extended mile.
This son of 2000 Guineas winner Makfi has a soft ground pedigree, with his sire having recorded a Group One victory over legendary filly Goldikova on heavy ground at Deauville, and his dam, 10-time winner Palos De Lago, having bred numerous soft ground specialists.
The five-year-old gelding, who was a convincing winner over the course and distance in June, has had a solid preparation for this contest, including an encouraging effort when a close-up sixth over an inadequate trip of seven furlongs late last month.
On that occasion, having worked his way into contention at the two-furlong pole, lack of fitness told in the closing stages, and the situation was accepted by his rider near the line.
His subsequent track-work has been good over the last fortnight, indicating he has tightened up in condition, and providing jockey Chad Schofield can find a position along the rails from an awkward draw, he is going to be hard to beat.
Schofield is also aboard the stable’s newcomer Solid Impact, who has made a good impression in a couple of trials, and lines-up in Division One of the Causeway Bay Handicap (2.45pm) over six-furlongs.
This New Zealand import was placed twice in Group company in his home country – both on soft ground – and looks a useful recruit, although an outside draw tempers enthusiasm.
A better proposition may prove the well-handicapped EXUBERANT, who has drawn the favoured inside number one stall and is ridden by in-form Matthew Chadwick.
Danny Shum’s lightly raced four-year-old has had numerous hard-luck stories since he started his Hong Kong career last March, but he did blitz his rivals from a similar draw over the course and distance in May, and is likely to be much better than his current handicap rating.
With Shum’s stable currently lying second in the trainers’ rankings with eight wins from just 55 runners, and Chadwick on cloud-nine after a winning treble at Sha Tin last Sunday, everything looks in place for a bold showing.
Fast-starting Diamond Brilliant and Wild West Wing, both drawn next to Exuberant, look the obvious threats.
Sun Of Makfi 12.45pm Happy Valley
Exuberant (e/w) 2.45pm Happy Valley