10/12/2017 4:46PM

Eastern Express set for seasonal debut Saturday at Sha Tin

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Hong Kong Jockey Club
Eastern Express will be a 133-pound highweight as he makes his first start of the Hong Kong season.

A pair of Class 2 handicaps, one at about one mile, the other at about six furlongs, headline a 10-race card Saturday at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong.

Eastern Express barely scrapes into race 6, the race over 1600 meters (about one mile), with a rating of 100 in a handicap restricted to horses rated 80-100. Making his first start of the Hong Kong season, Eastern Express packs top weight of 133 pounds, including jockey Zac Purton, in what trainer John Size might or might not be using as a stepping-stone to targets later this fall and winter.

Eastern Express did finish a solid second in his first start of the 2016- 2017 Hong Kong season, but he carried 124 pounds with an 88 rating in that 1 1/8-mile race, and this time around gives between six and 19 pounds to 12 rivals. Eastern Express, a 5-year-old Irish-bred by Fastnet Rock, rose as high as Group 1 competition last year, though he faded to 10th after chasing pace-setting Highland Reel in the Hong Kong Vase.

Solar Hei Hei already has gotten in three runs this season, and while he is in good form, seven furlongs rather than a mile might be ideal, and Solar Hei Hei lacks upside Saturday. Citron Spirit, on the other hand, appears to be coming forward. Citron Spirit spent last season racing in Class 3 handicaps, but other than a dud May 21 ran a series of strong races over one mile at Sha Tin. He won his seasonal debut last month, and while up in class thanks to a six-point ratings boost, Citron Spirit still gets a 13-pound weight break from the likes of Eastern Express.

Trainer John Moore has two entrants, though Rocketeer looks more interesting than Midnight Rattler. Rocketeer, just a 4-year-old, makes his first start of the season after a five-race campaign later in the 2016 – 2017 Hong Kong season, a string of races that saw him steadily improve. Rocketeer’s two best performances, however, came over 1 1/4 miles, and he might well need more ground to be most effective.  

Race 9, the six-furlong dash, looks wildly competitive. Convincible and Wa Mei Friend sit atop the ratings at 96, but neither appears to hold much of an edge over several others in the card’s penultimate race. 

First post for the card, which is available for wagering at DRF Bets, is 1 a.m. Eastern.

• Premiere was an impressive winner of the Class 2 feature Wednesday night at Happy Valley, but though the horse is fast and strong, he is distance-limited, according to trainer John Moore, and will be kept to sprints at five furlongs.

Premiere’s jockey, Karis Teetan, was handed a two-meeting suspension for his ride on the sharp winner Fifty Five last Sunday at Sha Tin.