02/23/2017 12:16PM

Andrew Hawkins' Hong Kong selections and analysis for Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017

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SHA TIN SELECTIONS

(Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017)

 

RACE 1: #4 Paddington, #3 Keep Moving, #13 Strathclyde, #7 Compassion Star

RACE 2: #14 Telecom Boom, #1 Massive Power, #7 King Winsa, #13 Lucky Place

RACE 3: #1 Able Friend, #5 Blizzard, #4 Contentment, #2 Helene Paragon

RACE 4: #1 Raging Bull, #9 Formula Galore, #11 Soul Achiever, #13 Unbeatable Guts

RACE 5: #5 Roman Odyssey, #7 Gallant Rock, #1 Magic Legend, #3 Dr Listening

RACE 6: #5 Merrygowin, #7 Gracious Ryder, #10 Vital Spring, #2 Easy Touch

RACE 7: #3 Werther, #4 Blazing Speed, #5 Secret Weapon, #1 Beauty Only

RACE 8: #7 Agree, #4 Bring It On, #6 Razor Quest, #8 Beauty Flare

RACE 9: #8 Ho Ho Feel, #3 Gorgeous King, #10 Mambo Rock, #5 Happy Contender

RACE 10: #8 Gold Mount, #1 Invincible Dragon, #5 Solar Hei Hei, #13 Baba Mama

 

RACE 1: CITIGOLD PRIVATE CLIENT HANDICAP

#4 Paddington surprised with a charging third on debut over the Happy Valley 1000m last month. He was sent out a short-priced favourite last time out over that same course and distance, but he was trapped deep throughout and looked all at sea, weakening into ninth. He now switches to the Sha Tin straight, and if he can take improvement from his last effort, he’s the one to beat with Joao Moreira sticking solid. #3 Keep Moving looked a ready-made racehorse with his debut success over this course and distance a month back. He rises in weight but with natural improvement, he’ll be in the mix again. #13 Strathclyde was average in two griffin runs as a two-year-old in May and June, but he hasn’t raced since. The blinkers have been applied to the Toorak Toff gelding in recent trials and they seem to have switched him on, the gelding leading home his rivals by five lengths in good time in his most recent hitout over this course and distance. Judge him on that, rather than his griffin runs. A couple of these first starters look handy types, although all will improve for the run. Perhaps #7 Compassion Star is the pick of them, just ahead of awkwardly-drawn #5 Beekely.

 

RACE 2: CITIGOLD HANDICAP

#14 Telecom Boom’s rating has dropped to a point where he looks a coming winner very shortly. Clearly, trainer Me Tsui thinks so too, given he has booked Joao Moreira to take the ride after engaging Vincent Ho at his last two starts. Gate 11 looks a touch awkward, but the step up to 1400m is a plus and he won’t have to improve much to be winning this. #1 Massive Power has placed at his last three starts in the cellar grade. He’s racing honestly and with another good draw, he should be competitive yet again. #7 King Winsa has turned the corner this season for a win and two top-four finishes. He looks capable of winning off this mark again and should get a sweet run in transit from the inside gate. #13 Lucky Place settled closer than usual last time out and finished off fairly, although he did get closer to the winner than ever before. If he can strike a happy balance, he could finish over the top of them.

 

RACE 3: G1 QUEEN’S SILVER JUBILEE CUP

#1 Able Friend remains Hong Kong’s highest-rated horse – just – despite injury keeping him out for almost a year and his inability to return to the winners’ circle in three starts since his return. He has not run poorly, though, and arguably could have won the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) last time out with even luck. He may not be the all-conquering superstar he once was, but he doesn’t need to be to take out this race, which he won imperiously in 2015. #5 Blizzard has established himself as one of the new players on the sprinter-miler scene. He is at his prime over 1400m, but his run against some tough opposition in the G2 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) suggests he is on song for this race. #4 Contentment is also a past winner of this race, having scored last year. He is a solid horse at a mile, but there is little doubt that the 1400m is his best trip. Give there is only one chance to win a G1 at this trip each season, expect him to be primed here. #2 Helene Paragon will have his supporters here after taking out the Stewards’ Cup last start, following on from a luckless second in the Hong Kong Mile. However, this trip might be a bit sharp for him and even trainer John Moore has admitted he is the stable’s second string behind Able Friend. This will be a stepping stone to the Champions Mile for him.

 

RACE 4: CITI ULTIMA CARD HANDICAP

#1 Raging Bull returns to Class 4 here. His last attempt at 1400m in Class 4, he was a winner, however it did take him 12 starts to break into Class 3. That said, he looks better suited carrying weight against weaker competition and with Brett Prebble aboard from a good gate, he shapes as a major player. Drawn directly to his inside is #9 Formula Galore, who has been mixing his form this season. However, he looks capable of figuring with a soft run here, and the 1400m should suit him despite a moderate effort over the course and distance last season. #11 Soul Achiever gets Joao Moreira aboard here as he makes his return to Sha Tin. His last win in January 2015 came over this trip with the Brazilian aboard, and his last run suggests he is returning to form. #13 Unbeatable Guts has drawn awkwardly and may be bound for Class 5. However, the return to this course and distance is a plus and with even luck, he can sneak into the placings late.

 

RACE 5: CITI GLOBAL BANKING HANDICAP

This is an odd race with most of the chances (and most of the speed) drawn towards the inside, a negative over the straight 1000m. Perhaps it is worth chancing the arm with #5 Roman Odyssey, who made up solid ground from an awkward spot on debut. He was slightly slow and then squeezed out, so he will need to jump better here, especially from gate 13. However, if he can weave his way through, he’ll be hitting the line strongly late. #7 Gallant Rock looks capable of jumping out and leading from gate six. He has speed to burn, although he may need to shed a few more ratings points yet. Still, expect him to be in front for a fair way. #1 Magic Legend was impressive winning at his first Hong Kong start, although he was green and wayward. Barrier one will force Douglas Whyte to maintain a centre-track path again and he has to shoulder 133 pounds, but he still looks to have ratings points in hand. #3 Dr Listening has been hit and miss this season, going under twice at short odds. He still looks like he will make a Class 2 horse and the blinkers may sharpen him up, but it is hard to see him having an ideal trip from gate two and he may be worth opposing if he is too short again.

 

RACE 6: CITI WEALTH MANAGEMENT SERVICES HANDICAP

#5 Merrygowin really caught the eye despite his clear inexperience on debut, charging into a half-length third behind Keep Moving a month back for the jockey-trainer combination of Zac Purton and Paul O’Sullivan. The son of Castledale has trialled well since and a breakthrough appears imminent, with the step up to 1200m looking ideal. #7 Gracious Ryder has been well prepared for his first start, judging by his trials and trackwork – he is not fully screwed down, but he looks to have the basics of racing figured out and he should come to hand fairly quickly. #10 Vital Spring finished evenly into fifth in the Keep Moving race with everything happening just a bit too quick for him over the straight 1000m. The step up in trip is a big plus and Joao Moreira maintains the ride, so expect improvement. Outside the lightly raced types, perhaps #2 Easy Touch can run a race back in Class 4. He won at over 60-1 in October over this course and distance, and while his other runs have been fairly lacklustre, he has been showing signs of coming to life again recently. Apprentice Dylan Mo takes 10 pounds off, meaning the chestnut only carries 123 pounds, while the race lacks any tremendous speed – although Easy Touch’s half-brother Regency Darling (both out of Volksraad mare Alleyrun) could revert to front-running tactics with the drop in grade. Still, Easy Touch could be one to stick on late.

 

RACE 7: G1 CITI HONG KONG GOLD CUP

#3 Werther returns to the 2000m here for the first time this season. His two runs over the Sha Tin 2000m have produced a narrow, but strong, BMW Hong Kong Derby win in March and a rout in the G1 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup in April. He missed the first part of the season due to injury, but his fresh run was solid in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and his work since suggests he’s come ahead in leaps and bounds for that effort. He is yet to prove he can excel in a tactical race, which this could become. However he gives every indication he should be winning here, booking a berth for the G1 Dubai Turf (1800m) next month. Forecast rain could be a plus, too. #4 Blazing Speed is not the horse he once was, but he has remained an honest conveyance capable of popping up in races like this. He will likely push forward, sitting one-out and one-back, and don’t be surprised to see him around the mark late. #5 Secret Weapon surprised slightly with his progression earlier this season, winning the G2 Jockey Club Cup (2000m) before beating all bar Maurice in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) in December. He was poor in the Stewards’ Cup and still doesn’t look fully wound up in the mornings, but he is another chasing a Dubai berth and he will be around the mark. G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile winner #1 Beauty Only has not won beyond 1800m and has only placed once at the trip from three attempts. He has always shaped as though he’d be capable of winning at 2000m, but if rain does arrive, his chances plummet substantially. The likely pace shape looks a negative, too.

 

RACE 8: CITI PERSONAL LOAN SERVICES HANDICAP

#7 Agree steps up to 1600m here after four runs in Hong Kong at 1400m. He has been best when ridden conservatively and allowed to produce a big finish late. The step up to the mile looks ideal and he looks more than capable of winning off his current mark. He’s a big player. #4 Bring It On charged home to finish fourth two back, before racing near the speed last time out and still sticking on well. Zac Purton jumps back aboard the son of Arcano, and despite another awkward gate, the Australian rider has options that will allow him to figure. He’ll be around the mark. Joao Moreira jumps aboard #6 Razor Quest, who caused a shock in winning under these conditions on New Year’s Day, beating Booming Delight – a subsequent winner of three races and now a Derby contender. He was fair at his most recent start last month, making significant late ground, and the booking of Moreira does suggest that he will be primed here. #8 Beauty Flare has taken time to acclimatise and adapt to Hong Kong racing, but he is now shaping as though he is ready to win a race. He will be another making up good late ground.

 

RACE 9: CITI MORTGAGE SERVICES HANDICAP

#8 Ho Ho Feel was a tough watch last time out. He may not have won, but at the very least he should have finished closer. He missed the start and settled a long way out of his ground, but he was making good headway late when he was blocked and was not ridden out. Gate 13 means he will probably have to go a fair way back again, but with even luck this time he can make his presence felt. The horses that beat him last time out, #3 Gorgeous King and #10 Mambo Rock, are both chances again. That day, Mambo Rock beat Gorgeous King, but with a three-pound turnaround, Gorgeous King can gain the upper hand here. Tony Millard’s charge has been racing in great heart at his last couple and looks a winner-in-waiting. He will push forward again and should be in the mix for a long way. Mambo Rock charged home to just beat him last time out, the blinkers sparking him to life, and with a soft run from gate three under Joao Moreira, he should be flying at them late again. From a different formline, #5 Happy Contender can bob up. He has not won in 20 Hong Kong starts but not through lack of trying, with the horse beaten twice by a nose, once by a short head and two other times by less than a length. He drops back in trip after just missing out over the Happy Valley 2200m last time out and looms as a chance yet again.

 

RACE 10: CITI INSURANCE SERVICES HANDICAP

#8 Gold Mount makes his Hong Kong debut here and looks to make a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the BMW Hong Kong Derby. The four-year-old raced in England as Primitivo, where he was trained by Alan King. He emerged from nowhere to win four handicaps in a row, culminating in a very impressive display in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot. Last week, Britannia Handicap winner Limitless booked his Derby berth, and while Gold Mount looked more of a staying type, he also looked a more impressive horse in the UK. He has trialled well ahead of this effort and he can win this. #1 Invincible Dragon took the Chinese New Year Cup comfortably last month and has made leaps and bounds this season. John Moore believes that he could be a Group horse in the making, similar to the progression Joyful Trinity has made in the last year, but he does have to contend with 133 pounds here. #5 Solar Hei Hei was blocked for a run last week and made up nice late ground when he did get clear. The step up to 1600m is ideal and he can figure. #13 Baba Mama really caught the eye in the Classic Mile, but was slightly flat-footed last time out. He’s a chance again with no weight on his back.