The first Group race of the season will be run and won at Sha Tin on Sunday as a handful of Hong Kong’s top gallopers step out to to contest Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m).
With $3.5m HKD on offer, all eyes will be on Group 1 Hong Kong Derby winner Golden Sixty in his return as the Frances Lui team set their sights on the rest of the Autumn.
We’ve run our eye over the entire 10-race card and offer our thoughts below.
Race 1 - 3:00pm
Class 5 Handicap (1000m)
Fantastic Fabio overcame the wide gate to a run second-up fourth over the 1200m at Happy Valley last Wednesday and looks well-suited stepping back in trip on the short back up.
Roman Odyssey found the 1200m too sharp first-up at Happy Valley but has found the placings on four of his six runs second up.
He gets a kilo off from his last start and the booking of Zac Purton suggests the Chang yard fancy him a chance.
2 Units Roman Odyssey
Race 2 - 3:30pm
Class 5 Handicap (1400m)
The Full Bloom turned in a brave performance for third first-up over the mile but found the same distance a little too much in his second run back from a spell.
He’s crying out for shorter now and should prove tough to run down if Matthew Poon can offset the wide gate.
Galaxy Emperor is winless in 11 career starts but appears well on his way to a breakthrough after showing some steady improvement for third first-up over the track and distance.
Karis Teetan remains in the saddle and he should have plenty of options at his disposal from midfield.
Blazing Partners is a two-time winner over this track and distance and is much better than his first-up run suggests. He had excuses from the wide gate and should finish much closer on this occasion.
Nunchucks has been competitive over this trip in Class 4 grade dating back to the start of the year and is worth a shout each-way.
2 Units The Full Bloom
1 Unit E/W Nunchuks
Race 3 - 4:00pm
Class 4 Handicap (1400m)
Best For You strips fitter for his first-up when seventh of 12 over the 1200m at Happy Valley.
The son of Not A Single Doubt is a two-time winner over this journey and has to be respected with Antoine Hamelin booked to ride.
Diamond Rhyme looks the likely leader as he steps up to the 1400m for the first time in over a year.
He’s winless in 10 starts at Sha Tin, but might just run into the money here under Joao Moreira form the inside draw.
Golden Four is next best after closing off his Spring prep with back-to-back placings over the course and distance.
2 Units Best For You
Race 4 - 4:30pm
Class 4 Handicap (1400m)
Wonder Express won over this track and distance last time in and should take a power of beating stepping back from the mile carrying 1.5kg less.
Zac Puton has been booked to ride Nordic Warrior second-up from a spell.
The Irish raider struggled under the 60kg of Alex Badel in his return to the races but does look better suited here over further from a much softer gate.
Colonel did some of his best racing from out wide earlier in the year and is much better than his last start suggests. He’s winless in nine starts but just might finish over the top of some of these late.
2 Units Nordic Warrior
1 Unit E/W Colonel
Race 5 - 5:00pm
Class 4 Handicap (1200m)
Breeze of Spring was unlucky to miss out on his second career win when beaten half a length second behind Bright Kid over the same track and distance first-up
Derek Leung remains in the saddle, and from a similar draw, the pair should go close.
Prawn Yeah Yeah has won first-up previously and gets in light at the weights. Whether this distance is too sharp for him fresh remains the query, though.
Super Red Dragon wasn’t disgraced in his return to the races running second behind Winston’s Lad over the 1200m. This is a much tougher race, but if Alex Badel can offset the wide gate, he’s c chance.
2 Units Breeze of Spring
Race 6 - 5:35pm
Class 4 Handicap (1200m)
Fortune Happiness returned in good order a fortnight ago to find the placings over the track and distance under Joao Moreira.
He’s been charged with 60kg this time, but must be respected with Moreira striking at around 31% aboard the Starspangledbanner gelding.
Demons Rock is a five-time winner over this distance and has drawn to get the gun run from the inside under Matthew Poon.
He tends to take a few runs to get going, but he might be worth a look in the minors,
2 Units Fortune Happiness
Race 7 - 6:05pm
Class 3 Handicap (1200m)
California Concord strips fitter for his first-up fourth over the track and distance.
The five-year-old son of Fastnet Rock is a three-time winner second-up and looks well-placed to add to that record here under Karis Teetan.
Czarson still has work to do since journeying over from Australia back in June, but there was plenty of merit in his first-up second a fortnight ago.
He’s drawn to get another lovely run on Sunday under Matthew Poon and might just sneak into the money again
2 Units Czarson E/W
Race 8 - 6:35pm
The Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m)
This shapes up to be an outstanding edition of the Group 3 Celebration Cup with all eyes on Sha Tin specialist Golden Sixty first up.
The five-year-old Hong Kong Derby winner has won 10 from his 11 starts at this venue and is also a three-time winner over the 1400m.
Long time jockey Vincent Ho is back in the saddle, and from the inside draw, he shapes as the one to beat.
Beauty Generation does his best racing fresh with three wins and two placings to his name and looks capable of challenging the favourite.
The booking of Zac Purton makes him a real chance from the inside draw, but whether he’s fit enough to carry the top weight remains to be seen.
Southern Legend commands respect on namesake alone.
He too has an impressive first-up record with two wins to his name, and he should receive a lovely run in transit from gate 5.
Ka Ying Star looks capable of sneaking a place if he can establish his usual spot up forward..
He couldn’t have been any braver winning the Group 3 Lions Rock Trophy to close off his last prep, and should take full confidence into this race knowing he’s beaten home Beauty Generation and Southern Legend previously.
6 Units Golden Sixty
1 Unit E/W Ka Ying Star
Race 9 - 7:19pm
Class 3 Handicap (1200m)
Bright Kid did just enough to win by half a length over this track and distance in his return to the races under Zac Purton.
The son of Show A Heart has now won two from his last four starts, but this is a much tougher assignment stepping up to Class 3 for the first time.
Winston’s Lad is an eight-time winner over this distance but will need to overcome the wide draw to be any chance.
Big Fortune might be the one over the odds with three wins over this distance and a strong record when racing fresh.
He was competitive at Class 3 level last time in and will have the added services of Karis Teetan steering.
2 Units Big Fortune
Race 10 - 7:19pm
Class 2 Handicap (1200m)
Transcendent is a proven first-up specialist with a perfect 3-0 record to his name.
He steps out over his preferred distance on Sunday where he’s won three from six starts and should receive a lovely run into the race from barrier 7 under Matthew Chadwick.
Green Aeon is the main danger. The son of Snitzel scored by half a length first-up over the 1000m and has also won second-up previously.
3 Units Transcendent