07/13/2017 6:57PM

Hong Kong: Sha Tin season finale could serve as a preview

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Hong Kong Jockey Club
Rapidly improving Beat the Clock has the potential to develop into a stakes runner next season in Hong Kong.

Sunday’s final program of the Hong Kong season at Sha Tin Racecourse is equally a preview of the 2017-18 season that begins in early September.

The top race on Sunday’s 11-race card is the $320,180 Sha Tin Mile Trophy at 1 1/8 miles on turf, a race that includes the rapidly-improving Beat the Clock.

A 3-year-old Australian-bred gelding, Beat the Clock has won three of his last four races and starts in a Class 1 handicap for the first time in his career in the Sha Tin Mile Trophy. It would be little surprise if Beat the Clock develops into a stakes runner next year, particularly in the lucrative Triple Crown for 4-year-olds next winter.

Trained by John Size, Beat the Clock will carry 117 pounds in the Sha Tin Trophy, much less than topweight Horse of Fortune, who has been assigned 133 pounds. Beat the Clock has risen steadily through the class levels during the current calendar year, winning Class 3 races in January and March and a Class 2 race last month.

The Sha Tin Mile Trophy is a Class 1 race, restricted to horses with ratings ranging from 90 to 115. Horse of Fortune is rated at 115, while Beat the Clock has a rating of 99, hence the 16-pound spread in weights. Beat the Clock was rated at 68 when he won in January, a remarkable rise of 31 pounds in the weights in recent months.

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Joao Moreira, Hong Kong’s runaway leading rider, has the mount on Beat the Clock, who has won four of eight starts in his career, all in Hong Kong. Beat the Clock typically races as a stalker, which will allow Moreira to settle his mount through the first half of the race.

Despite the heavy weight, Horse of Fortune is capable of a win. A 6-year-old gelding, Horse of Fortune won the Group 3 Premier Plate at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Sha Tin on June 25, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of Romantic Touch, who is part of the Sha Tin Mile Trophy. Romantic Touch will carry 128 pounds on Sunday and is expected to set the pace.

Romantic Touch could face pressure from Time Warp, who won consecutive Class 2 races for horses rated 80 to 100 in June and starts in a Class 1 race for the first time on Sunday.

Booming Delight, the winner of the Group 3 Lion Rock Trophy at a mile at Sha Tin on June 4, will benefit from a quick pace. He has been first or second in his last three starts, racing from just off the pace, and is certain to be well-backed.