By J. Keeler Johnson
Night racing returns to Happy Valley in Hong Kong on Wednesday, September 11, which means racing fans in North America will get to watch and wager on high-quality racing while enjoying their morning coffee — first post is 7:15 a.m. (ET).
The eight-race card offers competitive events over three different distances, but we’ll focus our attention on the two 1,000-meter sprints, which offer potential for a couple of appealing spot plays. Let’s dig in!
Race 2: South Bay Handicap (Class 5)
Three of the four highweights in this 1,000-meter grass sprint — #2 Touchdown Striker, #3 After Me and #4 Prawn Yeah Yeah — are dropping in class and picking up weight off a series of uninspiring efforts against Class 4 company. The remaining heightweight, #1 Blade Racer, was likewise competing against Class 4 company as recently as July, but his recent foray into a Class 5 handicap at Sha Tin did little to improve his form.
Rather than support horses who seem to be on downward spirals, I’ll play against the highweights with #5 Exponents. Two starts back, he rallied to finish second by a head over this class level and distance, rocketing the final two 400-meter sectionals in :21.65 and :21.95. This was a noteworthy turn-of-foot considering the standards for this class level are :21.45 and :23.15.
Exponents kicked off the current racing season with a runner-up effort over the Sha Tin dirt on September 8. The three-day turnaround is a question mark, but he’ll be back on turf this Wednesday and should be tough to beat if he brings his A-game.
Let’s bet Exponents to win and play him in the quinella with #9 Whistle Up, who has shown strong finishing speed over this course and distance, most recently coming home in :21.49 and :22.52 to finish third in a Class 5 handicap. He’ll have Hong Kong’s reigning champion jockey Zac Purton in the saddle.
$13 to win on #5 Exponents
$7.8 quinella: 5,9
Race 5: Middle Bay Handicap (Class 4)
#3 Best Smile should be ready for a big effort in this 1,000-meter turf sprint. He showed promise in his debut over this course and distance on July 7, setting the pace before finishing second in a race that came back solid time-wise for the Class 4 level.
Best Smile already fits well on paper in Wednesday’s race, and if he takes a step forward in his second career start, it’s easy to envision him romping to victory. He was an easy winner of a barrier trial on dirt at Sha Tin last month and picks up the services of Purton, who was aboard for the trial.
Let’s key Best Smile on top of the trifecta while spreading deep underneath with #1 Allied Agility, #2 Everbrave, #4 Look Eras, #5 Zero Hedge and #7 Hardly Swears, all of whom have shown varying degrees of promising sprinting. Hardly Swears could be an appealing play underneath since he was only beaten 4 ¼ lengths on debut in a race won in course-record time for the class level.
$1.3 trifecta: 3 with 1,2,4,5,7 with 1,2,4,5,7 ($26)
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club!