12/08/2016 11:53AM

Andrew Hawkins' Hong Kong selections and analysis for Sunday, Dec, 11, 2016

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SHA TIN SELECTIONS

(Sunday, December 11, 2016)

RACE 1: #4 Jing Jing Win, #13 Amazing Moment, #2 Water Diviner, #6 Burst Away

RACE 2: #11 Allcash, #12 Willie Way, #13 Easy Hedge, #4 General Sherman

RACE 3: #3 Winner’s Way, #11 Beat The Clock, #5 Booming Delight, #14 Super Talent

RACE 4: #1 Highland Reel, #13 Nuovo Record, #4 Satono Crown, #5 Helene Happy Star

RACE 5: #6 Big Arthur, #2 Lucky Bubbles, #1 Aerovelocity, #3 Peniaphobia

RACE 6: #9 Racing Supernova, #6 Blizzard, #7 Mr Bogart, #4 Circuit Land

RACE 7: #1 Able Friend, #12 Satono Aladdin, #13 Sun Jewellery, #6 Helene Paragon

RACE 8: #1 A Shin Hikari, #2 Maurice, #6 Lovely Day, #12 Queens Ring

RACE 9: #9 Mr Stunning, #2 New Asia Sunrise, #1 Line Seeker, #8 Malmsteen

RACE 10: #5 Pakistan Star, #13 Western Express, #2 Eagle Way, #8 Apollo’s Choice

 

RACE 1: SILENT WITNESS HANDICAP

The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races card kicks off with a lower-grade contest, a Class 3 over 1200m. However, it has produced HKIR winners before - 2014 Hong Kong Sprint winner Aerovelocity won this race in 2013 - and there is every chance it could produce a future HKIR contender in #4 Jing Jing Win. The top lot from the Hong Kong International Sale earlier this year, Jing Jing Win has lived up to the boom in two starts to date. All signs point to him making it three wins on end and potentially opening up a lot of doors for trainer David Hall. #13 Amazing Moment returns for his second Hong Kong season after a just fair term last time around. He has looked good in his trials and his trackwork and he looks set to make rapid improvement. #2 Water Diviner was strong in winning at his Hong Kong debut down the straight. The bend is no issue, having tackled it on every occasion in Australia, and if anything he looked like he'd take a major step forward from his first Sha Tin run - although the outside gate is not ideal either. A number of the first starters look to have some talent, but perhaps #6 Burst Away may be the most ready to make his mark early.

RACE 2: FANTASTIC LIGHT HANDICAP 

The 1800m Class 3 second is one of the more open races at this meeting and it shapes as a race where there are 10 potential winners. #11 Allcash has not won in Hong Kong from 19 local starts, but he has placed at his last two - including a second to Redwood Baby last time out over the Sha Tin 2000m - and now he looks set to break through here under Silvestre de Sousa. #12 Willie Way has strung three wins together over two seasons on both turf and dirt. He faces the rise in class but also gets the natural drop in weight, down 15 pounds on last time out, and he also has a plum gate in two. #13 Easy Hedge has probably been Hong Kong's most disappointing horse, but he goes in once again as he is liable for improvement at any time. Next best, #4 General Sherman, an inconsistent type who has been racing well for Tony Cruz in recent starts.

RACE 3: JIM AND TONIC HANDICAP

The third of three Class 3 races on the card features a number of first starters and a couple of progressive types who look to be heading far higher. #3 Winner's Way caused something of an upset when he won on debut at 25-1, but he proved that run was no fluke with an even better performance despite being defeated by Volitation last time out. He looks set to become a Class 2 mainstay and from the inside, don't be surprised to see him use this race to break through. #11 Beat The Clock is the likely favourite, having won as easy as anything on debut before racing somewhat flat after a tough run last time out. The draw, gate 12, could see him posted wide again, but he looks well-placed to continue his rise through the grades. #5 Booming Delight is a fascinating Hong Kong debutant, having raced as Out And About for William Haggas in Britain. He started favourite in the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot last start, a race which has famously produced a plethora of future Hong Kong talents, and wasn't disgraced in sixth. His earlier wins ensured he was chased hard by Hong Kong buyers and there is every chance he could be a classic horse in a couple of months for Team Moore, especially as it seems from his barrier trials that he has come to hand fairly quickly. Outside them, anything could sneak into the minor money - maybe #14 Super Talent can return to his best here third-up.

RACE 4: G1 LONGINES HONG KONG VASE

The first of the four HKIR features comes up with the HK$16.5m Hong Kong Vase over a mile and a half. The big question is, can #1 Highland Reel handle another destination on his itinerary - one that has already been jam-packed - and win this race once more? He is no champion, but his honesty, his bombproof nature and his tactical speed ensures that he is always in the mix. His Breeders' Cup Turf win proved a masterclass from Seamie Heffernan, while his win in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and his runner-up placing in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe behind stablemate Found is far superior to what anyone else in this field has achieved. All being equal, he wins again. #13 Nuovo Record found a hint of her best form when she won an admittedly weak G3 at Del Mar last time out. This followed a season where she had been below par, although her fourth to Neorealism and Maurice in the G2 Sapporo Kinen in August was somewhat akin to her Cup run behind A Shin Hikari last year. She's back to tackle the longer trip after an American sojourn where she was poor in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf before her Del Mar win, and any semblance of the Nuovo Record of 2015 will see her amongst the placings. Her compatriot Satono Crown has also disappointed this season since winning a G2 over 2200m at Kyoto to mark his 2016 debut. He steps up to 2400m for just the second time, having run third in the G1 Tokyo Yushun, the Japanese Derby, behind Duramente last year. He gets the services of Joao Moreira and must be a chance. The rest of the race is wide open, though. While local horses have a poor record in the Vase with only two wins in the last two decades, usually one can sneak into the top four. This year, there are a number of horses who could fill that role, with emerging galloper Eastern Express and quirky customer Anticipation likely to be most favoured. However, don't be shocked to see a big effort from #5 Helene Happy Star. He ran a bold race in the G2 Jockey Club Cup over 2000m last time out when setting a strong pace and finishing fourth, and he is a horse that is tactically versatile. The five-year-old, who was formerly named Barley Mow in the UK, is not the most consistent type but if he gets a scenario to suit, he could add massive value to the exotics.


RACE 5: G1 LONGINES HONG KONG SPRINT

Of the four HKIR features, the race that Hong Kong is most confident of winning is the HK$18.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint, with seven very strong chances of maintaining a good local record. However, the presence of Japanese star speedster #6 Big Arthur should cause concern for the Hong Kong brigade. The lightly raced type won the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen in easy style in March, but last time out in the Sprinters Stakes, he was blocked for a run for most of the straight and so his 12th to Red Falx is best struck out. He has trained up well for this race, including an eye-catching gallop on the Sha Tin all-weather track on Thursday morning, and even gate 13 shouldn't be a negative for a horse that is probably best with clear running. He is no Lord Kanaloa, the Japanese sprinter who went back-to-back in this race in 2012 and 2013, but he can give Japan another Sprint victory. The best two local chances are undoubtedly #2 Lucky Bubbles and 2014 winner #1 Aerovelocity. Lucky Bubbles represents the new generation of Hong Kong sprinters on the rise, having made his way through the grades in the last 12 months to sit at the very top of the tree. He beat all bar Chautauqua in the G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize (1200m) in May and has been in stellar form this time in, winning the G2 Premier Bowl (1200m) before storming home for second in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m). A repeat of any of those runs will make him hard to beat here. As for Aerovelocity, he might not be the same horse he was when he won three G1 races in three countries a couple of seasons back, but he still has talent on his day and he has been another case of working his way into form. Barrier two should allow him to have as soft a run as possible, and if he is good enough, he is one horse that will definitely be there at the finish. For fourth, last year's winner #3 Peniaphobia cannot be dismissed. On paper, his form looks poor, but he has been far better this time in than what straight form suggests and looks set to peak here. However, as a horse with known breathing issues, he will need to hope that he doesn't face too much pressure from the outside, particularly from American sprinter Pure Sensation. If he can get an easy run under Silvestre de Sousa, he's going to be very hard to pass.


RACE 6: FLYING DANCER HANDICAP

A break from the HKIR action sees those horses who were on the cusp of the international races but just missed out making their HKIR undercard appearance in a 1400m Class 1. The Panasonic Cup last time out under the same conditions looks the ideal form reference, and so it should be again with the winner #9 Racing Supernova set to go back-to-back. There were major queries about whether he could stay 1400m before his last run, but he tossed those concerns aside with an emphatic victory that could not have been more impressive. Silvestre de Sousa makes his debut on the five-year-old and he looks hard to beat. #6 Blizzard and #7 Mr Bogart finished third and second to Racing Supernova respectively in the Panasonic Cup. The latter is more progressive, but the former looks to be well weighted on his best form and he could prove the biggest danger. Next best, #4 Circuit Land, who probably would appreciate further but he should enjoy carrying only 126 pounds.


RACE 7: G1 LONGINES HONG KONG MILE

An open race that hinges on the health and wellbeing of one horse - 2014 Mile victor #1 Able Friend. If the giant chestnut is anywhere near his best, he wins this race and wins with ease, but how close to that mark is he now? Hong Kong's highest-rated horse of all-time, Able Friend has only raced once since finishing third to Maurice in last year's Mile after his 2016 has been plagued by injury. It is almost a miracle that he is even back racing at all, let alone the fact we are talking about him being a legitimate chance in one of the biggest races in the world. However, after setback after setback, it finally appears that he is somewhere near his best. Before his first-up race, he looked lean in the paddock and his fourth in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) was acceptable, if unspectacular. Since then, he has put on weight, strengthened up and he resembles the hulking monster that he has been in the past. His barrier trial effort last week was superb, cruising home for second to stablemate Not Listenin'tome under the tightest of holds, and his turf gallop on Thursday was as good as one could expect. He still is probably not quite there fitness-wise, and he now has the added hurdle of gate 14 to overcome, but all signs in the past week suggest he is ready to cap his unlikely return with a second Hong Kong Mile victory. There are multiple dangers if he isn't quite right though. #12 Satono Aladdin could potentially go off as the longest-priced runner of the three Japanese visitors in the race, but his run in the G1 Mile Championship (1600m) was terrific when he was checked badly in the concluding stages. He has been reinvented as a miler this season and if he gets his set-up, he will be sprinting hard late. #13 Sun Jewellery was the top four-year-old last season, winning the Classic Mile and the Classic Cup. He is yet to prove himself against the older horses, but he gives the impression that it is just a matter of time, whether it is this race, or in races like the Stewards' Cup and the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup in the coming months. He should box-seat from gate three and could be the first to challenge early in the straight. Next best, #6 Helene Paragon, who probably should have won the G2 Jockey Club Mile (1600m) last start, while #7 Neorealism also rates a mention, although he would be a far better chance in the Cup.

RACE 8: G1 LONGINES HONG KONG CUP

The richest race in Hong Kong, worth HK$25 million, the Hong Kong Cup remains the jewel in the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races crown. Sadly for the the local team, it looks a severe battle to try and regain the Cup as the might of Japan sets its sights on the 2000m feature. In fact, two of last year's HKIR winners have returned to tackle this year's Cup - reigning champion #1 A Shin Hikari faces last year's Hong Kong Mile winner #2 Maurice, and just to make it that even more intriguing, it is the final start for both gallopers as stud careers await. Most people would agree that Maurice is the better horse of the two, but is he suited in a race that could expose his stamina concerns and that could draw his turn of foot out of him? And as for A Shin Hikari, is he the same horse that won this race last year in a breeze and destroyed his rivals in the Prix d'Ispahan at Chantilly by 10 lengths? Will that horse appear at Sha Tin or will it be the shadow who has been flat at his last two? In the mornings, A Shin Hikari has looked spot on - well in himself, a little quirky, but still relatively measured. Assuming A Shin Hikari returns to his best, jockey Yutaka Take is likely to try and repeat the tactics that stole victory last year. Then the whole question becomes not is Maurice the better horse, but is he good enough tor run down an A Shin Hikari who is likely to get all favours out in front. Given Maurice is likely to be short and there are enough doubters around A Shin Hikari after his runs in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Tenno Sho Autumn at Tokyo, it is worth playing the latter, the nutty grey who is likely to get an easy time out in front. Japanese chances don't end there, though - all five of their horses are major players and can win. #6 Lovely Day started a hot favourite in the QEII Cup in April when he finished fourth to Werther, but he is flying under the radar here after a somewhat lacklustre 2016. If he finds the form that took him to victory in two G1s last year, he's right in the mix. #12 Queens Ring was supplemented for this after winning the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup against fillies and mares last time out. She showed a deft turn of foot and also a sense of dominance despite the narrow margin, and she still shapes as being quite untapped. She's a contender. If one local could sneak into the prizemoney, it is honest Blazing Speed, but both he and Designs On Rome - the two bastions of the home team - are completely unsuited in races that involve a solid gallop through the early and middle stages. That looks certain to be the case here again, so it might be worth taking all the locals on.


RACE 9: LORD KANALOA HANDICAP

Perhaps it is only fitting that after the Mile and the Cup put some of Hong Kong's most beloved veterans on display, the ninth is a glance towards the future - particularly through #9 Mr Stunning. John Size's sprinter is not the most robust character but really caught the eye at his first runs as a three-year-old. His return was as good a fourth as you can get, especially after he missed the start from the inside and then was forced to switch course a number of times. That run should have brought him on significantly and really, he should be winning now. #2 New Asia Sunrise is only a pony, a pint-sized galloper, but he is all heart and soul. The son of Written Tycoon is tenacious and always seems to bat above his average, even when he is not entitled to do so. Again, he looks like he might not be entirely suited, but he looks like a horse who could run a courageous second or third. #1 Line Seeker found the line nicely last time out and should get a softer run in transit here, while it might be worth giving #8 Malmsteen another go back on turf.

RACE 10: EISHIN PRESTON HANDICAP

Perhaps the best race of the day is saved for last with an intriguing Class 2 over 1600m. This race has been a stepping stone to G1 glory in recent years, with winners like Werther, Able Friend and Fay Fay going on to score at the highest level. Like Able Friend earlier in the day, drawing the outside gate doesn't appear to be a negative for hype horse #5 Pakistan Star. The horse with the electrifying turn of foot was uncomfortable racing between horses last start and yet still almost got there. He will be better suited here, which should allow Matthew Chadwick to sweep around the field and hopefully leave nothing to chance. His biggest danger is #13 Western Express, down in the weights. The Australian import, who formerly raced as Cardless Cash down under, could not have been more impressive first time out in Hong Kong and he looks a genuine shot in the four-year-old classics. With just 119 pounds on his back and Joao Moreira aboard, he will be hard to beat, although the wide gate looks more of a dilemma for him than for Pakistan Star. Trainer John Moore has won the last four runnings of the race and, after producing Queensland Derby runner-up Werther to win this race at his Hong Kong debut last season, he sends out this year's Queensland Derby winner #2 Eagle Way here. He looked like he would take great benefit from his first-up run in a recent trial, but interestingly, the blinkers were removed from him in that trial but are being reapplied here. He's definitely some chance. Next best, #8 Apollo's Choice, who is always consistent in these types of races.