Hong Kong Preview: Campione set for successful dirt return

March 28th, 2023

Don’t be surprised if recent form goes out the window in the Tung Wan Handicap at Sha Tin on Wednesday.

The midweek raceday in Hong Kong this week is on the Sha Tin dirt (confusingly named "all-weather" in Hong Kong, though it’s actually a true dirt track), and as many of the runners have been on turf most recently, it’s difficult to know how relevant the form is.

Sha Tin Race 8 Selections

  • #3 Campione
  • #2 Nervous Witness
  • #7 Super Win Dragon
  • #4 Ka Ying Master

Sha Tin Race 8 Wagers

  • $10 win/$30 show: #3 Campione
  • $1.30 trifecta: 2, 3 with 2, 3, 7 with 1, 2, 3, 4, 7

The best guide to Hong Kong dirt races is almost always previous dirt races, and the two horses that appear to stand out in this Class 2 1,200-meter (about six-furlong) trip are #3 Campione and #7 Super Win Dragon.

Campione has had an interesting career in Hong Kong. A Group 3 winner in Italy as a juvenile when known as Windstormblack, he’s won three times in Hong Kong. He’s mixed his racing between turf and dirt, but his dirt record is 4-2-1-0, showing he clearly relishes the track.

The Brazen Beau gelding’s last three starts have been in either Class 1 or Group 3 company on turf, none of which produced anything better than seventh. But his most recent dirt start produced a second-place finish in Class 2 Dec. 4, and it’s this form that I’d follow.

Victorious that day was Super Win Dragon, who was recording his third consecutive win. However, he was receiving 10 pounds from Campione that day, and though the weight difference in the book is 11 pounds this time, Campione will get the benefit of a seven-pound apprentice allowance from Angus Chung, who has won 22 times already this season.

Since that race, Super Win Dragon hasn’t scored in three starts, but one was on turf and the most recent was over 1,650 meters (about 1 mile, 40 yards), a trip which appears beyond him. Nearly all his best form is at 1,200 meters.

The best horse on dirt outside those two is probably #4 Ka Ying Master, an honest dirt performer who should be included in exotics.

The most interesting of the dirt newcomers are #1 Computer Patch and #2 Nervous Witness. The former was runner-up to Wellington at Group 1 level last season but doesn’t seem to be quite as good as a six-year-old; he did run on sand in Korea in September for a fifth placing, which isn’t that encouraging for this.

Nervous Witness scored a Group 3 second-place finish last season and was third to Duke Wai and Courier Wonder at his last start (ahead of Campione). If he can replicate that on dirt for Zac Purton he’s a great chance, and a trial win on the dirt March 17 was encouraging.