12/19/2016 12:21PM

Andrew Hawkins' Hong Kong selections and analysis for Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016

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HAPPY VALLEY SELECTIONS
(Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016)

RACE 1: #11 Agiaal, #7 Salsa Brothers, #5 Super Form, #10 Rewarding Flyer
RACE 2: #10 Atomic Blast, #9 Dashing Fortune, #4 Malayan Pearl, #1 Excellence
RACE 3: #2 Generous Bobo, #4 Never Better, #7 Powermax, #5 Wild Boy
RACE 4: #4 Amazing Feeling, #1 Speedy Achiever, #2 Pakistan Baby, #5 Love Chunghwa
RACE 5: #5 Po Ching Treasure, #11 Expectator, #10 Travel Ambassador, #3 Works Of Art
RACE 6: #1 Prawn Baba, #10 Victory Boys, #3 Jolly Gene, #4 Happy Contender
RACE 7: #11 Thor The Greatest, #8 Apache Spirit, #7 Lamarosa, #2 Green Card
RACE 8: #12 Super Turbo, #9 Back In Black, #8 Verbinsky, #2 Country Melody

RACE 1: SATURN HANDICAP

#11 Agiaal has not won in nearly three years, and that was off a far higher mark. He made nice enough ground last week to finish sixth to Travel Ambassador and while he might just be in search of the drop into Class 5, he wouldn’t shock if he managed to find the winners’ circle again here. #7 Salsa Brothers found the lead under Oisin Murphy on the dirt last time out and almost caused a 120-1 shock, just fading late to finish fourth. He can probably race handy again here and a second good run in a row is likely. #5 Super Form won at massive odds to start the season and hasn’t been disgraced in two Happy Valley runs since from bad draws. He now gets gate four with Joao Moreira aboard and he is likely to have strong market support. #10 Rewarding Flyer’s rating is slowly approaching the point where it was at the start of the season when he won. He should get a gun run here from the inside gate for Sam Clipperton.

RACE 2: URANUS HANDICAP

#10 Atomic Blast looked a horse bound for Class 3 in no time when he joined David Hall’s stable last season, but now he is languishing deep into Class 5 for new trainer Tony Millard. He clearly needs something to spark him up and perhaps the switch to Happy Valley can provide the trick. He’s a risky proposition but one worth testing here. #9 Dashing Fortune ran well enough last start when racing forward after racing back at his previous two starts. If he goes forward he’ll be a chance here. #4 Malayan Pearl got into a scrimmage at the top of the straight last week and still picked himself up to run third. The jockey switch from Craig Williams to Kei Chiong is a negative, even though Chiong does know the horse well. Still, a repeat of last week will see him go close. #1 Excellence gets down into Class 5 for the first time with Zac Purton jumping aboard. Expect significant improvement.

RACE 3: JUPITER HANDICAP

#2 Generous Bobo has been out of the winners’ circle for almost two years but has built up quite a good record in Class 4 in his time, with five starts yielding two wins, a second, a third and a last-start sixth on the Sha Tin all-weather track. He had a wide trip there so the run is best forgiven and he is suited by the return to Happy Valley, where he has finished in the top four at eight of his 11 starts. Zac Purton aboard from an inside draw is also a plus and he looks the one to beat. #4 Never Better is racing well enough and has also drawn a plum gate in four. Joao Moreira jumps aboard and he looks to be a prime contender yet again. #7 Powermax has placed twice to start his career, both times making good ground up the inside. The step up to 1200m suits but the outside draw may play against him. Next best, #5 Wild Boy, who should be flying home late.

RACE 4: JUPITER HANDICAP

Twelve months ago, #4 Amazing Feeling recorded his third consecutive placing in the Griffin Trophy and looked a horse bound for Class 2 in no time – just like the other top four finishers in that race have done subsequently in People’s Knight, New Asia Sunrise and General Of Patch. However, he is still languishing in Class 4 and still remains winless from 10 starts in Hong Kong. Joao Moreira jumps off but Derek Leung is riding well and is a more than able replacement and this race looks his time to finally break through. Moreira is instead on #1 Speedy Achiever, who also looms as a strong chance. He was very good last time out when he just couldn’t reel in Sight Seeing and this race looks to have a similar set-up. #2 Pakistan Baby races in silks that have now become famous the world over for their association with Pakistan Star, and owner Kerm Din looks to have a good chance here with Pakistan Baby. The horse’s best form has come at Happy Valley and he now returns there after a year at Sha Tin. Next best, consistent #5 Love Chunghwa for Brett Prebble.

RACE 5: SATURN HANDICAP

A tricky race to assess. #5 Po Ching Treasure is yet to win from 32 Hong Kong starts but has performed well a number of times at different stages. His runs this season haven’t been too bad, and if he can get the lead from the inside gate with Olivier Doleuze aboard, he can finally break through. #11 Expectator disappointed last time out after getting home strongly the start before. He may be looking for a further drop into Class 5 but he was a Class 3 winner a couple of seasons back and a return to that form will have him in the mix here. #10 Travel Ambassador was very good last week, benefiting from a sublime Craig Williams ride, and while Williams will have to work his magic again from the outside stall, it may not be the worst thing for the horse to be forced to make a wide run around the field. It certainly suited him last week. #3 Works Of Art took time to pick up last start before finally making up late ground. He goes in again.

RACE 6: MARS HANDICAP

#1 Prawn Baba is a rare John Size experiment in that he steps up to 2200m at just his third start after two good outings over a mile. He also heads to the city track for the first time. He should get a soft run here from gate four and he looks to have plenty of upside, so he should be hard to beat, even if this is an odd move for his handler. The main danger is the consistent #10 Victory Boys, who has not missed the quinella in his last six starts dating back to April. He steps up to 2200m for the first time, but the distance doesn’t look as though it will trouble him. He will likely be beyond midfield on the rail from the inside gate, so he will need luck, but he will be coming at Prawn Baba late. #3 Jolly Gene is an out-and-out stayer who won a similar race off a higher rating in April. His form is nothing flash but he can never be discounted over this trip. Next best, #4 Happy Contender, who is a winner waiting to happen and could get his chance here.

RACE 7: VENUS HANDICAP

#11 Thor The Greatest looks a good chance to give visiting Mauritian jockey Nooresh Juglall a winner before he returns to his permanent base in Singapore. Benno Yung’s galloper is a pretty straightforward galloper, if he jumps. He’s best suited when going forward, although he did run quite well two back when coming from near the rear. Still, with just 116 pounds to carry, he looks a prime chance. #8 Apache Spirit was good first-up but disappointed from a wide gate at his next start, then was not sighted on the Sha Tin all-weather track. The return to Happy Valley suits, especially with a better draw, and he’ll be hoping for a steady tempo that he can run at late. #7 Lamarosa did sit wide on speed last time out but the extent of his failure was inexplicable after a good first-up win. He has drawn awkwardly again but a return to his first-up form will see him in the mix. #2 Green Card comes to Happy Valley for the first time after mixing his form at Sha Tin. The short straight may suit but he can overrace, so he will need things to go right from the inside.

RACE 8: MERCURY HANDICAP

A very open race closes the card, and it is a race where nearly every runner has a legitimate chance. #12 Super Turbo is a promising galloper who runs in Class 2 for the first time. A number of his defeats earlier this season were due to bad luck as opposed to any lack of talent, and while he will need luck again from a wide draw on the C+3 course, the 17-pound drop in the weights should see him hard to beat again. #9 Back In Black may be on his mark and may need to get back to Class 3 but if he can find his best around this course with Craig Williams aboard, he’d be a chance. #8 Verbinsky only just got there to score last time out. He meets a number of these worse at the weights but he also looks to have upside so he should be included. At odds, throw in #2 Country Melody as he returns to Happy Valley for the first time this season from the inside draw.