WITH the weather finally relenting in Hong Kong after a typhoon and catastrophic floods in the past 10 days or so, it’s all systems go for iconic track Happy Valley to host its first meeting of the season, with an excellent eight-race programme.
With crowds expected to flock through the turnstiles to celebrate the occasion and live bands, dancing and competitions throughout the evening, it will be imperative racegoers find a few winners to pay for their entertainment.
Popular trainer Danny Shum has started the new season with a bang, landing a treble on the first day at Sha Tin on Sunday, and it would be silly to ignore any of his seven raiders at the inner-city track.
In fact, he saddles the likely banker bet of the meeting, when highly progressive DENFIELD reappears in division two of the Tai O Handicap (1.10pm) over six furlongs.
Connections had to go to nearly £800,000 to buy this son of Deep Field at the 2020 HK International Sales and, following a series of near misses, he finally got his head in front when bounding clear of his rivals over the course and distance in June.
That performance was hugely impressive, as following a wide journey from an awkward draw, he still had more than enough ability to career away from his rivals, without his jockey resorting to the persuader.
There is no doubt that, with more experience, this four-year-old looks destined to move up in class against better company and, despite shouldering top-weight, should prove too good for his eight rivals.
You can guarantee the majority of spectators will be thumbing through their race-cards or newspapers before the action starts and marking down what their ‘go-to’ jockey, champion Zac Purton is riding.
It felt like Purton had never been away, despite the seven-week summer break, when riding another winning treble at Sha Tin over the weekend.
The Australian has his card marked in all eight races, and it would be almost inconceivable to believe he will leave the track empty-handed, despite the competitive nature of the contests.
The likes of Heroic Master in the Chek Lap Kok Handicap (3.15pm) over five furlongs, and talented but unpredictable Allgreektome, in the Mui Wo Handicap (3.50pm) over six furlongs, both look destined to go close, but his stand-out ride appears to be SPLENDID LIVING in the Ngong Ping Handicap (2.15pm) over the extended mile.
This former UK galloper has taken plenty of time to acclimatise to his new surroundings, and it was only in the latter stages of last season that his real ability shone through.
Three wins and three places suggested he was improving rapidly, and his final victory in June was the easiest of them all.
His track work and trial during the close-season suggest that he has progressed again and, with Purton likely to dictate from the front, he should be hard to catch, much to the delight of his supporters.
Denfield 1.10pm Happy Valley
Splendid Living 2.15pm Happy Valley