BETTORS are faced with a quandary when racing gets under way with a nine-race programme at Happy Valley on Wednesday.
Reigning champion jockey Zac Purton tested positive for Covid last Sunday, ruling him out of riding at Happy Valley, and meaning it’s in the balance whether he can ride at Sha Tin on Sunday.
With his many thousands of avid supporters betting him blind throughout the season, this will come as a serious set-back, especially at a track where he is out on his own, for providing winners.
It hasn’t been all about Purton in recent weeks, however. Former British three-time champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa is in scintillating form, riding eight winners at the last three meetings.
The Brazilian Cat, as he is nicknamed by the local media, is quickly growing his own cult following in Hong Kong, and you can be sure his eight-rides on the card will have a strong following.
None of his rides look obvious choices, but keep an eye on Savvy Chic, who lines-up for the second race of his career in division two of the Nakayama Handicap (12.45pm) over six furlongs.
This Frankie Lor-trained gelding never saw daylight, when about to deliver a challenge over five furlongs at Sha Tin last month, and will appreciate stepping up in distance.
It’s hard to be confident about his chances with the likes of strong favourite and hat-trick seeking Gold Gold Baby in opposition, but he is certainly worth a look on the odds board.
Later in the day, it may pay to follow the fortunes of last start winner THE IRISHMAN who makes his first appearance at the city track, in theTokyo Handicap (2.15pm) over the extended mile.
This highly-rated Francis Lui-trained galloper finally got off the mark when producing a turbo-charged finish to defeat some smart rivals over seven furlongs at Sha Tin last month, and is guaranteed to improve further over the extended mile journey.
Trainer Lui, who is capable of completing a treble – he saddles Gold Gold Baby in the 12.45pm – launches talented RISING FROM ASHES, equipped with blinkers for the first time, in the Hanshin Handicap (2.50pm) over the extended mile.
Racing over a mile for the first-time last month, the son of Shamus Award showed a blistering turn of foot in the closing stages, before just losing out on the nod to rival Amazing Plus One.
That race was run at a genuine pace from the off, and it should be a similar scenario with rival My Ecstatic certain to dictate a strong tempo again.
Comet Splendido is the obvious form choice having finished strongly to win with Purton aboard five weeks ago, but he doesn’t like to be in front too long. New jockey Jye McNeil, who only arrived in Hong Kong last week, will need to time his challenge to perfection.
The Irishman 2.15pm Happy Valley
Rising From Ashes 2.50pm Happy Valley