With Hong Kong’s reigning champion jockey Zac Purton currently serving a suspension, there are opportunities for less-heralded riders to take the spotlight during the Saturday, Jan. 11 race card at Sha Tin.

Let’s put on our thinking caps and seek out a couple of spot plays for this competitive day of racing:

Race 3: Carpenter Handicap (Class 4, 12:15 a.m. ET)

Based off a series of promising barrier trials, #1 Inner Flame was favored in his debut at Sha Tin on Dec. 21. The Australian-bred 4-year-old promptly delivered on those expectations, tracking the pace in a 1,200-meter Class 4 handicap before easily pulling clear to score by two lengths.

Although this performance improved Inner Flame’s rating by eight pounds, he’ll remain in Class 4 company on Saturday as the 133-pound highweight. Another pace-tracking trip should be in the offing while breaking from post 9, and if Inner Flame shows any improvement in his second career start, he figures to win comfortably under jockey Alexis Badel.

Wagering strategy

We’ll keep things simple and bet Inner Flame heavily in the win pool:

$39 to Win on #1 Inner Flame

Race 6: South Wall Handicap (Class 4, 1:50 a.m. ET)

#3 Sam’s Love fired off a sharp effort over this course, class, and 1,400-meter distance on Dec. 21, rallying to win by a half-length with Purton in the saddle. Notably, Sam’s Love was racing with a tongue tie for the first time in four starts this season, which may have contributed to his improvement.

Sam’s Love will keep the tongue tie for Saturday’s elongated sprint, and while he’ll lose the services of Purton, Alfred Chan may prove to be a perfect replacement. Chan rides with a 10-pound allowance, which means Sam’s Love will tote a feathery 119 pounds on Saturday, far below his 129 assignment.

We’ll hedge our bets in this competitive field by keying Sam’s Love in the omni/swinger with highweights #1 Sunshine Warrior and #2 King’s Race. There isn’t much speed in this race, so King’s Race – a proven front-runner – could be formidable while cutting back slightly in distance.

Wagering strategy

$13 Omni/Swinger: 3 with 1,2 ($26)

Good luck!