Although ongoing political protests in Hong Kong led to the cancellation of the November 13 race card at Happy Valley, Hong Kong Jockey Club officials are committed to a business-as-usual approach for the important November 17 card at Sha Tin.
With three Group 2 stakes on the agenda, Sunday’s races serve as critical steppingstones for local runners targeting the December 8 Hong Kong International Races. Group 1 winners Beauty Generation, Exultant, and Pakistan Star will all be in action, along with up-and-coming sprinter Aethero.
Assuming the card goes off as scheduled, the first race will take place at 11:15 p.m. (EST) on Saturday night. It’s a can’t-miss night for fans of international racing, so if you want to follow along, here are three spot plays to give you added interest in the group stakes action:
Race 6: The Jockey Club Mile (G2)
Reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year #1 Beauty Generation saw his 10-race win streak come to an end when finishing third in the October 20 Sha Tin Trophy (G2) over this course and 1,600-meter distance. But Beauty Generation—normally a front-runner—got bottled up behind horses and seemed uncomfortable racing off the lead. Even still, he was only beaten 2 1/2 lengths while conceding the top two finishers 14 and 18 pounds, respectively.
Beauty Generation should receive a much better setup on Sunday. Only one of his six rivals looms as a pace challenger (#5 Ka Ying Star), and Beauty Generation will tote just 128 pounds, conceding a more reasonable five pounds to his opponents. Sha Tin Trophy runner-up #2 Waikuku is back again and figures to draw some support, but without the benefit of a big weight break, he’ll be hard-pressed to maintain his superiority over Beauty Generation.
Let’s bet a straight trifecta using Beauty Generation on top of Waikuku and Ka Ying Star:
$10.40 trifecta: 1 with 2 with 5
Race 7: Jockey Club Trophy (G2)
Three-time Group 1 winner #1 Exultant won the 2,000-meter Jockey Club Trophy and kicked off his 2019-20 campaign with a solid third-place finish in the 1,800-meter Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (G3). He should improve while stretching out in distance for his second start back, but he’s facing a formidable opponent in #3 Rise High.
Runner-up behind Exultant in the May 26 Champions and Chater Cup (G1) going 2,400 meters at Sha Tin, Rise High has been riding a hot streak. He ended last season with a victory in the 1,800-meter Premier Plate (G3), then returned from a layoff to stun Beauty Generation in the Sha Tin Trophy.
Rise High’s fine effort in the Champions and Chater Cup suggests 2,000 meters is well within his distance capabilities. He looms as a major threat to Exultant, so we’ll play them together in the quinella.
$20.80 quinella: 1,3
Race 8: The Jockey Club Sprint (G3)
#14 Aethero is the hype horse in this 1,200-meter dash. Trainer John Moore has spoken highly of this lightly-raced three-year-old with a near-perfect 4-for-5 record, even suggesting Sha Tin’s course record could be in danger on Sunday.
But there are plenty of fast sprinters entered in the Jockey Club Sprint, so the pace figures to be intense from the get-go. This could favor the chances of fan favorite #6 Pakistan Star.
A late runner without much tactical speed, Pakistan Star was compromised by a pedestrian early pace (opening 400 meters in :24.63) when finishing fifth in the 1,200-meter Premier Bowl Handicap (G2) on October 20. Keep in mind, this was Pakistan Star’s first start of the 2019-20 season, and he was only beaten 1 3/4 lengths while conceding weight to the top three finishers.
Despite these obstacles, Pakistan Star managed to sprint the final 400 meters in :21.62, indicating he still possesses his trademark turn-of-foot. Given a fast pace to chase in the Jockey Club Sprint, Pakistan Star might surprise with an upset victory.
Let’s bet him to win and play him in the quinella with Aethero:
$10.40 to win on #6 Pakistan Star
$5.20 quinella: 6,14