By J. Keeler Johnson
Fans of international racing will have plenty to be happy about on Wednesday when racing returns to Happy Valley in Hong Kong following three weeks of action at Sha Tin.
An eight-race card kicks off at 7:15 a.m. (EDT), and there’s a familiar name running in the opener, so be sure to set your alarm — you don’t want to miss the start of the card.
Want a rooting interest in the action? We have a couple of spot plays to bookend the morning races:
Race 1: Po Toi Handicap (Class 4)
#11 Very Sweet Orange was a winning play for us last month when he dropped into a 1,000-meter Class 5 handicap at Happy Valley and cruised to a two-length victory while toting 132 pounds. He’s stepping back up in class today, but there are two reasons to think Very Sweet Orange can win right back. For one, he’s carrying just 119 pounds; and for another, he’s racing again over 1,000 meters. Very Sweet Orange has plenty of speed but struggles to stretch his stamina over 1,200 meters, so sticking with this shorter trip should be to his benefit.
I’ll bet Very Sweet Orange to win and play him in the Omni/Swinger with #10 Demons Rock, who rallied to finish second behind the promising Snap Fit over this distance and class level at Happy Valley three weeks ago:
$10.4 to win on #11 Very Sweet Orange
$5.2 Omni/Swinger: 10,11
Race 8: Cheung Chau Handicap (Class 3)
#4 True Grit has been on a roll this year for Hong Kong’s leading trainer John Size. The four-year-old gelding is 3-for-3, winning a pair of Class 4 handicaps with sharp late rallies before handling the jump to Class 3 company with another rallying triumph. All three of those wins came going 1,650 meters at Happy Valley, the same conditions as Wednesday’s race, and regular rider Joao Moreira (winning at a 19% rate this season) will retain the mount.
For the trifecta, highweights #1 Harmony Hero, #2 Magnificent and #3 Cordyceps all boast solid recent efforts over this class level and distance, making them logical candidates to finish in the money. We’ll also consider #11 Zhan Jiang Rocks, who has shown excellent finishing speed going 1,650 meters. Three starts back, he flew home his final two 400-meter sectionals in :23.70 and :22.91 to fall a length short of victory at this class level.
$10.4 to win on #4 True Grit
$1.3 trifecta: 4 with 1,2,3,11 with 1,2,3,11 ($15.6)
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club