09/12/2017 7:03PM

Packing Dragon looks to start season strong in Washington D.C. Handicap


Packing Dragon improved monumentally during the 2016-17 Hong Kong racing season, but will he begin a new campaign where he left off?

That question will be answered Wednesday night at Happy Valley, where Packing Dragon faces 11 foes in the $238,100 Washington D.C. Handicap. The race is contested at 1,650 meters (just over one mile) and is open to horses rated 80-100.

Packing Dragon barely qualifies as he is rated 100 on the dot after starting last season with a rating of just 70. Four wins later, Packing Dragon has steadily climbed the ladder, and to avoid their horse carrying a hefty 133-pound impost, seven-pound apprentice Matthew Poon rides for the first time.

Packing Dragon, who likes to race forwardly, didn’t really hit his stride until he’d gotten a few races behind him last year, but he at least was decent in his first start of 2016, has won before over this trip at Happy Valley, and is well enough drawn in post 6 with a very short run to the first of two turns.

Doyeni, the second-highest rated horse in the Wednesday feature, used a Happy Valley start in which he showed little as a springboard to a win at Sha Tin, where every start since his Hong Kong debut has come. It seems fair to assume he is prepping Wednesday, and Doyeni has a poor draw in 10.

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Speedy Longwah, rated 91, scored only one win through a busy 2016-17 campaign, but that victory did come at this same class level (and at a similar weight) and was over the same distance on the Happy Valley course. Speedy Longwhah nonetheless looks like a minor player.

Victory Marvel already has raced once this season, fading to 11th after setting the pace in a six-furlong dash Sept. 6. His fitness no doubt will have improved from the run, but his racing history suggests the front-runner will be hard pressed to fully stay the trip.

Dr. Listening, a 5-year-old Aussie-bred, came on nicely through the tail end of last season, and his considerable finishing kick has been effective at this Happy Valley trip in the past. He is, however, poorly drawn in post 11.

Friends of Ka Ying went winless in 11 starts last season, though he does get the services of Joao Moreira for the first time.

Post time for the feature, the last race of the night, is 10:50 a.m. Eastern. Someone is sure to win it. Who, exactly, is not so clear.