HAPPY Valley once again serves up a feast of intriguing and highly competitive racing on a nine-race programme at the city track in Hong Kong.
Be warned though, the action takes place on the infamous ‘C+3’ course, with little room to manoeuvre on the tight and narrow track and only a short home straight
The draw always plays an important role in determining winners, with historically low draw numbers and on-pace runners holding sway over wide-drawn gallopers, especially in races over six furlongs.
The likes of hat-trick-seeking Flying On The Turf, with Zac Purton aboard, is guaranteed to be at the forefront of the betting in division two of the Lockhart Handicap (1.45pm) over six furlongs, but an awkward draw could make life tough.
It’s a similar story with highly regarded Nordic Dragon in the finale, the O’Brien Handicap (2.50pm), over six furlongs.
He may be a quick starter, but there is plenty of early pace on his inside and, from the outside draw, he may have to work hard early on to get into his preferred position near the front.
Class Five handicaps are never the easiest for form book students, with the majority of gallopers either non-winners, frustrating, or never running two races alike
Nevertheless, it is hard to oppose well-drawn Euromissile in division two of the Fenwick Handicap (11.15am) over six furlongs, following his encouraging performance behind Loriz earlier in the month.
In opposition, however, is the Pierre Ng-trained Le Plus Vite who has never seen daylight in his last two races and is much better than his form suggests.
His placed effort behind Hearty Wish over the course and distance in December marked him down as a potential future winner and, if he gets any luck, he is dangerous.
Progressive Happy Soul looks an obvious choice in division one of the Lockhart Handicap (1.15pm) over six furlongs, having finally confirmed earlier promise with a resounding win over the track and trip last month.
He didn’t have to be at his best to win that day, and could still be in front of the handicapper, despite his penalty, but he does suffer health issues during some of his races, which tempers enthusiasm.
One horse who does have everything going for him, in the Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Handicap (12.15pm) over six furlongs, is the Dennis Yip-trained VANTASTIC CHOICE, who should now be in peak condition after three runs in the territory.
The Australian-bred son of Choisir has needed time to acclimatize following his arrival to his new surroundings last April, but his track work suggested he was a galloper with plenty of ability.
His latest performance behind Rattan Kingdom in December was full of promise, and a subsequent recent trial behind Sunday’s Class Two winner Carroll Street at Sha Tin, indicates he has improved plenty.
With his trainer hitting the bullseye with Goko Win at Sha Tin on Sunday, and an all-important inside draw in his favour, he should take a lot of beating.
Vantastic Choice 12.15pm Happy Valley