11/11/2016 7:39PM

Hong Kong: Blizzard looks to end win drought in Panasonic Cup


Blizzard starts as the 132-pound highweight and top-rated horse in the $322,000 Panasonic Cup on Sunday at Sha Tin in Hong Kong, but also brings an eight-race losing streak into the Class 1 handicap.

The Panasonic, to be contested over 1,400 meters – about seven furlongs – is for horses rated 110-85, and at 106, Blizzard stands at the top end of the ratings. He also has failed to win a race since Oct. 25, 2015, and could finish only 10th of 14 in this race last year as the 3-1 second choice.

Blizzard found trouble two starts ago, his seasonal debut, in a handicap where he ought to have been competitive, and last out raced wide and uncovered when a one-paced fifth in the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap. At 1,200 meters, the Premier Bowl might have been on the short side for Blizzard, though he has become a horse that regularly seems to mix slight underperformance with poor racing luck.

Circuit Land saw the handicapper up his rating six points, from 99 to 105, on the strength of a fast-closing course and distance win Sept. 25 in the Ventris Handicap while giving 19 pounds to the runner-up. Post 14, however, could prove Circuit Land’s undoing Sunday.

More appealing as an alternative to Blizzard is Mr. Bogart, who has a better draw in post 3 and the pace to be on or near a moderate early and middle tempo. Five-year-old Mr. Bogart has steadily improved his rating through his six Hong Kong starts, and in winning Oct. 16 over 1,400 meters, he turned back the homestretch run of the loftily regarded Pakistan Star to win by more than two lengths.

Able Friend gets his trial race

Able Friend, a multiple Group 1 winner and former Hong Kong Horse of the Year who has not started since December, turned in a solid barrier trial over the all-weather track at Sha Tin on Friday. Able Friend finished fifth of seven in his six-furlong trial after breaking somewhat slowly and racing from the back of the field, but his connections expressed satisfaction with what they saw from the 7-year-old gelding.

“I think he’s not going to disappoint us," said jockey Joao Moreira, who rode Able Friend on Friday. "I think he will turn out to be what he used to be.”

Able Friend is slated to make his comeback run Nov. 20 at Sha Tin in the Group 2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint, a potential prep for a return to Group 1 competition on Dec. 11 at Sha Tin.