YOU CAN guarantee there will be groans of apprehension from serious bettors on Hong Kong racing when they see that mid-week racing at Happy Valley is once again on the infamous C+3 track, where the width of the course is a narrow 19.5 metres.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the weather forecast will cause more concern, with the temperature stiflingly hot in the thirties and the likelihood of showers and isolated thunderstorms striking the city at any time.
The importance of the draw has to be highlighted again, with low numbers historically having a distinct advantage over rivals housed in outside gates of 10, 11 and 12.
When racing took place on the C+3 track last month, only one horse drawn in a gate higher than five was successful, and four of the nine winners came from stall two.
One horse that has drawn the ideal ‘golden alley’ along the rails in stall one, is progressive speedster NICETOBEMET who lines up in the Hawthorn Handicap (1.45pm) over the flying five furlongs.
This three-year-old son of Deep Field has steadily improved since joining the Frankie Lor stable and ran his best race to date from just four starts, when placed third behind Atomic Energy over the course and distance last month.
On that occasion, he suffered a wide and wayward journey with Zac Purton aboard, hanging badly on the entrance to the home straight, but still staying on strongly in the closing stages to make the frame.
A subsequent trial showed he looked much more the finished article, running straight and true down the home stretch, and his trainer has now equipped him with a lugging bit for the first time.
With rival Super Axiom guaranteed to blast off in front and the likes of Ace Talent and Diamond Soars desperate to be up with the early pace from their awkward draws, jockey Alexis Badel aboard Nicetobemet is set for a rails-hugging journey and can prove too good for his rivals in the closing stages.
Later on the card it was hard not to be impressed by the resurgence in form of PARTY WARRIOR, who gave favourite backers a fright when nearly catching progressive sprinter Hoss earlier this month.
It obviously caught the attention of Purton, who is desperately trying to ride at least two winners a meeting in his quest to overtake Joao Moreira’s all-time Hong Kong record of 170 wins in a season.
Purton must have been on the phone as soon as they went past the post to claim the ride from normal partner Vincent Ho, and the hint should be taken.
The partnership line-up in the Sauternes Cup Handicap (2.45pm) over six furlongs, and the omens look good.
The five-year-old, who is ideally drawn in gate four, has recorded two wins and six seconds over the course and distance, is back near his last winning rating, plus Purton has partnered him to win twice from just five rides.
Nicetobemet 1.45pm Happy Valley
Party Warrior 2.45pm Happy Valley