12/20/2016 8:37AM

Hong Kong: Molly's Jade Star on an upward trajectory

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The trainer Rickey P.F. Yiu appears to have found the keys to the 5-year-old Australian-bred gelding Molly’s Jade Star. The first was blinkers, which went on to positive effect six starts ago. The second was Happy Valley Racecourse.

After 17 Hong Kong starts at Sha Tin, Yiu gave Molly’s Jade Star an entry at Happy Valley on Oct. 30. Now Molly’s Jade Star has won two races in a row and looks very much the one to beat in the featured eighth race on Thursday night at Happy Valley.  

The eighth is at 1,200 meters, the distance of Molly’s Jade Star’s two straight wins, and is a Class 2 handicap for horses rated 80-100. The handicapper was sufficiently taken with Molly’s Jade Star’s most recent start on Nov. 16 that he boosted the gelding’s rating by 10 points, to 86, and thus Molly’s Jade Star is up to the highest class of his career. But he looks ready for the challenge.

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Since blinkers went on (and this was Yiu’s second experiment using the headgear on his charge), Molly’s Jade Star has gone 4-2-1 from seven starts while showing ever-improved early pace. In the Nov. 16 race he broke alertly, pressed the leader from the rail, took over at the top of the stretch, and ran away from his rivals with aplomb to win by 2 1/2 lengths. The fractional times in that race were faster than the Class 3 standard, as was the final time, and Molly’s Jade Star in no way appeared to be all out. He’s drawn a poor wide post Wednesday night, 12, but can get over for position with another alert break under jockey Kei Kei Chong.

Molly’s Jade Star carries 120 pounds, as many as six fewer than higher-rated horses like Country Melody that recently have been spinning their wheels facing similar rivals and lack appeal Wednesday. More interesting is the race’s other major ratings-riser, Verbinsky, who like Molly’s Jade Star appears to have benefitted considerably from a move to Happy Valley and an equipment change.

Trainer Tony Cruz added woolen cheek-pieces to Verbinsky’s racing package three starts ago and Verbinsky has responded with two wins and a third. Always traveling comfortably in a race like this Nov. 9, Verbinsky got up from seventh to win by a head, but even an improved version of the horse will find it difficult to run down Molly’s Jade Star if that oner finds further good fortune and continues his upward cycle.

Two Class 3 handicaps for horses rated 60-80 immediately precede the Wednesday feature, and in the second of those, race 7, Yiu and Chong send out another horse that improved significantly in his most recent start. This is Wonderful Journey, who began racing with blinkers removed and in a crossed noseband two starts ago, and suddenly started carrying his speed. He was fairly explosive for an eighth of a mile or so off the far turn and into the Happy Valley homestretch in his last start, winning by almost three lengths after opening a wide lead. Like his stablemate in race 8, he earned a 10-pound raise in the ratings.

The Happy Valley card begins at 7:15 p.m. local time (6:15 a.m. Eastern) with the feature carded for 10:50 p.m. in Hong Kong (9:50 a.m. Eastern). The local forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of showers Wednesday afternoon. Live video and wagering on the card is available at DRF Bets.