PUNTERS face a dilemma when racing gets under way with a nine-race programme at Happy Valley today.
Hong Kong racing normally takes place on a good or fast surface, but that has all changed in the past month.
The monsoon season seems to have arrived early in the territory, with tropical cyclones, thunderstorms and heavy rain circling the city in the past week.
Ground conditions of good-to-soft or yielding appear to be the norm in recent times, rendering the formbook virtually defunct and providing many surprise results.
Take last Friday for instance, when racing at Sha Tin took place in torrential rain and things turned into a bloodbath for punters.
Six of the 10 winners were returned at double-figure odds and no favourite obliged during the action.
With rain and thunderstorms forecast around the city-track, it should pay to follow gallopers who have run well previously on a rain-softened surface or that are bred to excel in these conditions.
One horse who is bred to love soft ground is the Frankie Lor-trained HYPERION TREE, who moves up in distance in the Tamar Handicap (12.15pm) over one-mile-three-furlongs.
This New Zealand-bred gelding stepped up on previous form at Sha Tin last month and was only just caught on the line when attempting 10 furlongs for the first time.
That form reads well as he was conceding weight to all his rivals, and now stepping up in class he can race off a nice light weight, so his chances look obvious.
With many of his inconsistent rivals renowned plodders or rated up to their best, this looks to be a chance for jockey Alexis Badel to race near the front from the off and then show his rivals a clean pair of heels in the closing stages.
The booking of Joao Moreira for the Michael Chang-trained ONE STEP AHEAD catches the eye in division two of the Tim Mei Handicap (12.45pm) over the extended mile.
The likeable trainer has had a desperate time this season, with only 15 winners leaving him near the bottom of the trainers’ championship table.
However, there has been a resurgence in form from the stable in recent times, with four wins and three places from his last 10 runners.
It’s unusual to find Moreira partnering one of Chang’s gallopers, although his record of one win and a further nine in the frame from just 14 rides suggests he is pretty accurate when choosing his rides.
One Step Ahead obviously caught the reigning champion’s attention when stepped up to the extended mile for the first time a fortnight ago.
On that occasion, he was ridden to get the trip and finished strongly in the closing stages, confirming that this distance will be ideal.
With an inside draw in stall two a bonus, and having run well previously on a yielding surface, he looks capable of extending his stable’s present good run of fortune.
Hyperion Tree 12.15pm Happy Valley
One Step Ahead 12.45pm Happy Valley