Next up, it's the Hong Kong Sprint, from Davy Lane, @loscharruas.
LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint
Group 1, 1200m, HK$18.5 million (£1.62m)
1540 local, 0640 GMT, 1840 AEDT
My idea of the Winner
Rank outsider Growl is my idea of the winner. Growl is a 66/1 shot because he is perceived to be a humble handicapper from the North having a crack at a big pot because Dr Marwan Koukash loves to see his horses race in exotic places. Yet Growl is no ordinary Richard Fahey trained horse. Growl is by Oasis Dream out of a Storm Cat mare (the Secretariat line for the uninitiated). Growl was purchased from Lady Rothschild in April this year. Attempts to turn him a classic horse never materialized. Always too keen, or held back on inconvenient ground, he was subsquently gelded. Three of Growl’s four wins have come over 6 Furlongs on Good to Firm. He will get the firmest ground he’s ever encountered at Sha Tin on Sunday. Hold on tight! Graham Lee knows the drill. He partnered Growl in his four previous starts, including two wins, each over 6 furlongs, and a bold 2nd in the British Champions Sprint also over 6th furlongs. A look back at that Ascot Champions race is highly instructive. Lee settled Growl in the slipstream of market leader, Quite Reflection. This was the obvious horse to follow. Yet Quite Reflection bombed early forcing Lee to shuffle Growl out and around the fading favourite. Growl ate up the ground 400 meters out, but again had to swerve late, this time around tiring leader, Signs of Blessing. That Group I 2nd place performance proved Growl belonged in the highest company. Yet somehow this form has failed to filter into the market. Growl is rated 114. The highest rate horse in this Spring rates at 119 and the lowest is 112. Even without a close examination of his pedigree, past performances and little knowledge of the comptence of his trainer, the winniest trainer in the UK last season, the ratings show Growl to be bang in this race. Fahey was phelgmatic about the wide draw, pointing out the winnner came from wide last year. Growl himself was seen strolling on to the training track before the draw, equally unflustered. Jockey Lee had some serious health issues this summer, including a debiliatating virus. That connections have preferred Lee to some marquee international name speaks volumes for their integrity and loyalty. Owner Dr. Marwan Koukash will be not at Sha Tin, as he has an open day for his Salford Rugby League franchise, but he has tweeted he will tuned at 6:40 a.m. to cheer his horse on. Local seismologists be warned!
Inside Draw, 1-5
Those with the best chances in this race should in theory be the best local horses with the lowest draws. It turns out five of the top six Hong Kong horses are drawn 1-5. The speed will be on. Peniaphobia and Aerovelocity, drawn 1 and 2, respectively, are the two most recent winners of this race. As such it is difficult to dismiss them, but jockey bookings, age, colic attacks and patchy recent form suggest neither still hold the neccessary umph to punch through here again. Strathmore is probably out of his depth, but could find his way into a Superfecta. Not Listenin’tome ran third in last years’ renewal and was winner of the Sprint trial last time out. Hugh Bowman retains the rides and thinks the horse is improving. Lucky Bubbles, drawn 5 is the hot local favourite and clearly the horse to beat. This son of Sebring has been in the first two in 10 of his last 12 races. The collateral form suggests he wins this race within a race, but will the locals cut each other’s throats?
Middle Draw, 6-10
Gary Moore has been talking up Takedown. The horse is huge beast weighing in at over 620 Kgs, he possesses great gate speed and has put up winning times comprable to the locals to his inside. Connections are even talking Royal Ascot. Takedown belongs on the short list. Drawn next in 7 is Amazing Kids. Astonishingly, this horse has been easy to back thanks to a moderate performance in the recent trial. Moreira stressed it was an ideal trial in his post race interview. Once the horse was beaten, Moreira rode and hands and heels in the final half a furlong. I suspect there is another gear and we’ll see that from this John Size inmate on Sunday. Five times the price of Lucky Bubbles with a comprable draw and Moreira aboard, the 12/1 about Amazing Kids is the best value of any local horse on UK markets. Rebel Dane got soft conditions, a flat favourite and the run of the race last time in the Manakato Stakes at Mooney Valley. It was a deserved Group 1 victory for a perenial bridesmaid, but this is much higher class of Group 1. Toss. Super Jockey took the deep dirt Group 1 Korea Sprint by 4 lengths last time out. He’s a dirt horse who tends to be a one second behind the best turf sprinters in Hong Kong. Toss. Finally Red Falx drawn 10 is another dual purpose beast. He has skipped a potentially lucrative dirt engagment in Japan for this and could shadow Amazing Kids. Hard to tip, but hard to dismiss.
Outside Draw 11-14
Pure Sensation has tremendous early speed, but is a doubtful contender because of a stone bruise. His first time around the training track was also far from ideal with the horse reportedly confused about going clockwise. Trainer Christophe Clement has not made the trip to Hong Kong. The chances of the three horses drawn to his outside will surely improve if he is scratched. Growl and Big Arthur drawn 12 and 13, respectively, can concentrate on their late charges over the final 400 Meters. That Growl and Big Arthur are both drawn wide may be seen as a disadvantage, but that the two of them are drawn side by side I see as a big advantage. Big Arthur is the most probable winner of the race. He has put in the most impressive trackwork this week per astute trackside observers. His coat is reportedly fantastic. His winning times from Japan are superior. And he now gets Ryan Moore. Signs of Blessing is a early speed horse that badly needed an inside gate. He got drawn widest of all. Trainer François Rohaut described the draw as a “catastrophe”. Growl had his measure last time and Signs of Blessing will have to do more work to find a comfortable running position. Toss.
Hong Kong sprinters have generally among the best in the world in recent years, but comments by Christophe Soumillon and Zac Purton suggest there is no real superstar sprinter in Hong Kong this year. I expect the inside drawn locals to burn each other out and for either Growl or Big Arthur to blow past them at the business end of the race with Amazing Kids, Lucky Bubbles and Not Listenin’to me fighting out the minor places.
Growl 66/1 Win and Each Way Bet 365, Bet Victor, Ladbrokes and Betfair
Big Arthur Win 7/2 Ladbrokes
2nd Big Arthur
1st Growl, Big Arthur
2nd Big Arthur, Growl
3rd Amazing Kids; Lucky Bubbles, Not Listenin’to me
Use Growl and Big Arthur in across the card Each Way Multiple Parlays.