by J. Keeler Johnson
Racing in Hong Kong continues on Sunday (first post time 12:45 a.m. ET) with a 10-race card at Sha Tin featuring a blend of dirt and turf races over a variety of distances.
There’s mostly lower-class fare on the agenda, and since this is only the second card of the season, form could be unpredictable as runners race their way back to peak fitness. With this in mind, we’ll keep our overall investment on the light side (less than $60) while spreading our participation across three races.
Race 5: New Street Handicap (Class 4)
Touch of Luck (#1) could potentially be overlooked a bit in this 1,200-meter sprint since he’s winless both on dirt and over this distance. But to spout these facts blindly isn’t quite fair since Touch of Luck cracked the trifecta in his two previous runs on dirt and hasn’t sprinted 1,200 meters in nearly a year. He’s flattened out in his last two runs going 1,650 meters, so perhaps the cutback in distance will sharpen his late kick.
Granted, this is probably a starting point for Touch of Luck, but the return to dirt should be beneficial (he’s a son of Hard Spun, don’t forget), and you can do worse than bet a top-rated runner trained by the legendary John Moore and ridden by reigning champion jockey Zac Purton.
Let’s bet Touch of Luck (#1) to win and play him in the quinella with Sky Treasure (#3), who boasts three wins over the Sha Tin dirt, and also Gunnar (#5), a lightly-raced but consistent young sprinter trying this surface for the first time.
$7.80 to win on #1 Touch of Luck
$3.90 quinella: 1 with 3,5 ($7.80)
Race 6: Po Hing Handicap (Class 4)
Destin (#9) (not to be confused with the 2016 Belmont Stakes runner-up) has been threatening to win for a while at this class level and 1,400-meter distance. He really put everything together in the spring, recording three consecutive trifecta finishes while repeatedly demonstrating a strong turn-of-foot.
Arguably Destin’s best effort came when he rallied through traffic to miss by a half-length at Sha Tin on June 2, running the final two 400-meter fractions in :22.83 and :23.02. Perhaps he would have finished even faster (and won the race?) if he hadn’t bled during the running.
After receiving nearly two months off from serious training, Destin has gradually worked his way back into action and performed well enough in a couple of barrier trials last month. I don’t consider him a shoo-in to win on Sunday, but he gets in carrying just 121 pounds, and I rate him as the horse to beat if he brings his A-game.
In addition to placing a modest win bet on Destin (#9), I recommend playing him in the omni/swinger with the lightly-raced Sparkling Knight (#3), who is facing easier company after knocking heads with Aethero and Winning Method (two capable sprinters) in his first three starts.
$5.20 to win on #9 Destin
$5.20 omni/swinger: 3,9
Race 8: Po Yan Handicap (Class 2)
In terms of overall form and/or proven affinity for dirt, the four highweights in this 1,200-meter sprint –Dragon General (#1), Yee Cheong Baby (#2), Elusive State (#3) and Raging Blitzkrieg (#4) – rate a cut above their rivals. Since they also represent some of Hong Kong’s leading jockeys and trainers (Zac Purton will guide the undefeated Yee Cheong Baby), I’m tempted to make a larger investment in this race and play a four-horse trifecta box. With 12 runners in the field, the payoff should be nice regardless of the outcome.
$1.30 trifecta: 1,2,3,4 with 1,2,3,4 with 1,2,3,4 ($31.20)
PHOTO: Sha Tin (c) Hong Kong Jockey Club