Marcus HershFeb 22, 2021
Class 3 handicaps often are the highest level of racing on a Wednesday night at Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong, but a pair of Class 1s brighten this week’s nine race program.
Both races are for horses rated 110 to 85. Race 3 is carded at 1,650 meters, one lap around the Happy Valley course. Race 6 is 1,200 meters. First post for the program is 5:45 a.m. Eastern and you can find all the action at DRFBets.com.
Among the nine entered in race 6 is one of the most successful horses of the 2020-2021 Hong Kong season, Grateful Heart, already a four-time winner from six starts during a campaign that began Sept. 27. Trained by Clifford Shum and with Zac Purton back in the saddle, Grateful Heart seeks his third straight victory while testing Class 1 competition for the first time.
A winner last out over 1,000 meters at Happy Valley, Grateful Heart might have run even better two starts ago when he notched a 2 1/2-length score going 1,200 meters in a Happy Valley Class 3 while carrying 131 pounds. Grateful Heart clocked 1:08.79, .86 seconds faster than par for the class and distance at Happy Valley. Up eight points in the ratings to 96, Grateful Heart, still just a 4-year-old, carries a manageable 126 pounds Wednesday and has a good draw in post 5.
Beauty Applause, Joao Moreira riding for trainer John Size (the most potent trainer-jockey combination in Hong Kong), also enters race 6 following two wins. A 5-year-old who often has compromised his talent by over-racing, pulling too hard throughout the running, Beauty Applause finally has started settling better, and after a dominant 1 1/4-length Class 2 win last out, he tries Class 1 for the first time.
Happy Valley is the nearly unknown variable here, as Beauty Applause has made 18 of his 19 starts at Sha Tin. His lone try at the so-called “city track” came in September, when he set the pace and faded to fourth in a Class 2.
Top-rated Amazing Star (106) drops from four group stakes races. He won a 1,200-meter Class 2 in his most recent Happy Valley start but is weighted down Wednesday with 133 pounds. On the other end of the weights, Sky Field totes just 118 pounds for leading Hong Kong trainer Caspar Fownes, who tries him at Happy Valley for the first time in eight starts. Alexis Badel rides.
Badel and Fownes also team up in race 3, the 1,650-meter Class 1, with The Rock, who looks very live here. The Rock, an English import formerly known as Vasiliev, tries Class 1 competition for the first time and despite coming off a Sha Tin Class 2 win carries just 113 pounds Wednesday, getting as much as 20 pounds from his higher-rated rivals.
The Rock led all the way in his last start win but two races ago, in a Class 2 over this trip at Happy Valley, he closed strongly from the back of the field to finish seventh. The versatile running style, proven Happy Valley form, and the favorable weight put The Rock in a decent spot to knock out a Class 1 win even if, in the end, he is not truly a Class 1 horse.
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