When Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong hosts a 10-race card on Saturday, Dec. 21, my attention will be focused on a handful of second-time starters with seemingly bright futures.

Call it speculation, or a hunch, or even just a gamble, but I’m excited to play these inexperienced runners. There’s no shortage of veteran campaigners to choose from throughout the card, which kicks off at 11:15 p.m. (ET) on Friday night in North America. But by supporting up-and-comers, you have the opportunity to nab fair prices on horses that might turn out to be budding stars.

Let’s capitalize on these runners with a couple of spot plays:

Race 5: Ho Sheung Heung Handicap (Class 4)

The majority of the entrants in this 1,200-meter sprint bring uninspiring recent form to the equation. Many haven’t hit the board in a single race during the 2019-20 racing season, and the first-time starters don’t look particularly tough on paper.

This could give an advantage to the lightly-raced duo of #1 Fantasy and #4 Power King. They both debuted over this class, course, and distance on Nov. 23, with the pace-tracking Fantasy King resiliently holding off a late charge from Power King to win by a short head.

After racing at level weights in the first meeting, Fantasy will concede Power King three pounds on Saturday, which could potentially tip the scales in favor of last month’s runner-up. But Power King is marooned in post 13 while Fantasy has drawn well in gate 2, so hot jockey Karis Teetan will need to pull out all the stops to deliver a winning ride aboard Power King.

Let’s bet Fantasy and Power King in the quinella, then play them on top of a trifecta with #2 War Lord and #3 Colorado High underneath:

  • $15.6 quinella: 1,4
  • $1.3 trifecta: 1,4 with 1,2,3,4 with 1,2,3,4 ($15.6)

Race 7: The Pearce Memorial Challenge Cup (Class 3)

#3 Computer Patch made an eye-catching debut just one week ago for legendary trainer John Moore. Despite breaking sluggishly from the far outside post in a 1,200-meter sprint, Computer Patch unleashed a strong burst of speed down the stretch to finish second behind the rapidly-improving Quadruple Double, who has won three of his last four starts.

By every metric, this was a strong performance from Computer Patch. He sprinted the final 400 meters in an excellent :21.62, dramatically faster than the class standard of :22.95. Reigning champion jockey Zac Purton has accepted the mount, and with a sharper start from post 5 in Saturday’s 1,200-meter sprint, Computer Patch can take a step forward to reach the winner’s circle.

#1 Beauty Applause also warrants respect, having won his last three starts sprinting 1,200-meters for the high-profile team of trainer John Size and leading rider Joao Moreira. Beauty Applause has plenty of tactical speed but will have to be ridden aggressively to save ground from post twelve, potentially setting up a fast pace favorable to Computer Patch.

  • $20.8 to win on #3 Computer Patch
  • $20.8 quinella: 1,3

Good luck!