HAPPY VALLEY FREE PICKS - March 4, 2020
Race 1: #4 Demons Rock, #10 Travel Successor, #12 Show Mission, #3 Prawn Yeah Yea
Race 2: #8 Dionysus Collin, #5 Cheerful Star, #6 Full Power, #2 Rule Thee
Race 3: #7 Smart Of Youth, #2 Shanghai Master, #5 Master Albert, #11 Look Eras
Race 4: #8 Tangmere, #3 All You Know, #6 Casa De Forca, #7 Starlit Knight
Race 5: #6 Super Alliances, #2 Mehboob, #1 Shamport, #8 Victory For All
Race 6: #2 Magnificent, #5 Surrealism, #3 Solar Wai Wai, #6 California Argent
Race 7: #1 Star Of Yuen Long, #4 Champion Supreme, #10 Flash Famous, #6 Farshad
Race 8: #2 Inner Flame, #11 Happy Alumni, #4 Fearless Fire, #10 Goodluck Goodluck
Race 1: Ma Tau Wai Handicap
#4 Demons Rock was run down last start after trying to make all over 1200m. He steps back to 1000m here as he searches for his first win and with Zac Purton taking the reins again it's a good push around him being a top winning chance.
#10 Travel Successor is another who is winless. He's 0/31 which is a concern but his first-up run last prep saw him go down by a short-head and if he manages to fly fresh again, he could take catching.
#12 Show Mission gets in light with only 118 lbs allotted.
#3 Prawn Yeah Yeah got off the mark first-up this season, however since then, has largely struggled. Still, he has drawn to get the right run and this isn't overly strong.
Race 2: Kowloon Tong Handicap
#8 Dionysus Collin has narrowly missed on a number of occasions. He's becoming a costly conveyance for supporters but still, he has shown that he's capable of a win which doesn't appear too far away.
#5 Cheerful Star got off the mark in Hong Kong three starts ago. He has held his condition and in returns to his preferred course and distance following a competitive fifth last time out.
#6 Full Power grabbed third two starts ago. He has mixed his form but with a race run to suit he can figure.
#2 Rule Thee is a 34-start veteran of the field. He's consistent and the booking of Zac Purton warrants respect.
Race 3: To Kwan Wan Handicap
#7 Smart Of Youth turned his form around last start to grab an improved fifth. He has drawn a touch awkward but he has shown plenty ability across three starts and if he can offset wide gate early, he won't be too far away.
#2 Shanghai Master rattled home last start over 1000m. He hasn't won since late 2018 but he appears ready to finally go on with it again.
#5 Master Albert caught the eye when grabbing the second win of his career last start. He remains in Class 4 which suits and the good gate should see him get a charmed run throughout.
#11 Look Eras gets in light. He's expected to roll forward for Dylan Mo and he's capable of clinging on for some prize money.
Race 4: Ma Tau Kok Handicap
#8 Tangmere is still searching for his first Hong Kong win. He caught the eye last time out and with Zac Purton taking the reins he just might be ready to win.
#3 All You Know has been nothing short of consistent across his career. He does his best racing at the Valley and this appears suitable.
#6 Casa De Forca gets the services of Joao Moreira who returns from suspension. He should be fit with nine runs under his belt this term and blinkers going on for this should sharpen him up.
#7 Starlit Knight returned to his best two starts ago when missing by half a length. He has drawn awkwardly but this isn't an overly strong affair.
Race 5: To Kwa Wan Handicap
#6 Super Alliances is looking to snap a run of two runner-up efforts as he searches for his first win. The Zacinto gelding has acclimatized well and if Joao Moreira can offset the wide aboard him, he's going to take beating.
#2 Mehboob is ultra-consistent with six top three finishes from 10 starts, including one win. He has drawn to get the gun run and with Zac Purton now taking over, he warrants respect.
#1 Shamport is worth consideration from the good draw. He's a two-time winner already this term and another would not shock.
#8 Victory For All rattled home for third last time. His racing pattern is costly if he's going to continue settling last and flashing home but still, a fast-run-race will ensure he gets the best chance.
Race 6: San Po Kong Handicap (2nd Section)
#2 Magnificent has led and won previously over this course and distance and he's more than likely not going to try the same again here. He has drawn to get an easy time of it for Joao Moreira and with even luck early he could take running down.
#5 Surrealism comes into this off three top three finishes. He has to contend with the awkward gate but in his favor is the blinkers go on to sharpen him up.
#3 Solar Wai Wai got his second win two starts ago by a narrow margin. He has held his condition well out of that run and he deserves respect.
#6 California Argent is next best.
Race 7: San Po Kong Handicap (1st Section)
#1 Star Of Yuen Long sits on the cusp of Class 2. He can propel himself to another level here with the right run for Vincent Ho. He still has plenty of ratings points in hand and this is a suitable contest.
#4 Champion Supreme is consistent. He'll need a race run to suit but if he gets it, he's a major player.
#10 Flash Famous is consistent and loves the Valley as a three-time course and distance winner. He gets in light with Joao Moreira on board and bears close watching.
#6 Farshad likes to get back but he can run a bold race off the back of his latest win.
Race 8: Kowloon City Handicap
#2 This Is Class is exactly what his namesake suggests, especially off a dominant display last start when making all by two lengths. He can roll forward again here for Vincent Ho take plenty of catching.
#7 Ping Hai Galaxy got off the mark last start. He rates strongly for this and his latest effort was impressive over this course and distance.
#10 Takingufurther won well last time out. Grant van Niekerk returns from suspension to take the reins again and if he can offset the wide gate, he can go close.
#6 Green Reign is nearing a win. He closed strongly last start and his ever improving condition suggests he has a place chance.
Joao Moreira seeks Magnificent return at Happy Valley
Joao Moreira is looking to regain some breathing space in the race for the jockeys' championship this Wednesday morning at Happy Valley as he returns from a two-meeting suspension with a full book of eight rides.
Moreira, has seen his margin at the top reduced to seven wins after reigning champion jockey Zac Purton hit back during the Brazilian's absence with five wins from 19 rides.
Moreira, however, is taking his season one week at a time, hungry for winners while focusing little on the prospect of a fourth title as he bids to hold top spot till season's end on July 15.
"I try not to think too much about it even if I do but all I have to keep thinking about is how I can keep on winning races and so far this season I've been getting good support and getting on nice horses," Moreira said.
Both dual three-time champion jockeys, the dominant pair have stretched clear of the pack as the mid-point of the season passes. Moreira leads with 81 wins, Purton sits second with 74 wins, while Karis Teetan ranks third on 45.
"I think I will be able to keep on ticking along with winners here and there and it's very hard to say now whether it will be enough to win the championship but what I can say is I am trying my best, knowing that I have tough competition Zac (Purton) is a very good jockey--he's very intelligent and he does his homework very well which inspires me to also do my very best," Moreira said.
Moreira is searching for his fourth title after taking home three consecutive championships from 2014-15 to 2016-17, amassing 483 wins in that time while setting a single-season record of 170 wins. He relinquished the title to Purton in 2017-18 and the Australian went back-to-back with 304 wins across those two seasons.
Moreira has eight chances on Wednesday's card including a horse familiar to Purton, the Peter Ho-trained Magnificent (131 lbs) who tackles the second section of the Class 3 San Po Kong Handicap (1650m).
||Star Of Yuen Long
|K L Man Man
|A S Cruz
|A T Millard
||Xiang Bai Qi
|Y S Tsui
||Big Bang Bong
||Grant Van Niekerk
|C W Chang
|C S Shum
"He seems alright - fortunately he drew a good gate. I have only galloped him once but he seems nice, he feels well and he's healthy," Moreira said.
Purton won on the horse three starts ago, but will be aboard The Hulk (133 lbs) for trainer Caspar Fownes in Wednesday's contest.
"There are a few other horses in the race we have to respect--coming down in class but I know that if my bloke performs at his best--he is definitely a winning chance," Moreira said.
A two-time winner, the Peter Ho-trained galloper will break from gate two as he looks to recapture his best.
Earlier, Moreira will team up with main ally John Size aboard Super Alliances in the Class 4 To Kwa Wan Handicap (1200m). The pair already have 17 wins together this term including three at Group 1 level - two with champion sprinter Beat The Clock and one with Waikuku. Last season they combined for 59 wins together.
While Super Alliances hasn't quite scaled those heights, he's still been pleasing the 36-year-old as he looks to shed his maiden tag in Wednesday's test.
"He's one of those that (John) Size has in his stable that is an improving type, he's far off being at his best in regard to his rating and his last," Moreira said.
The Zacinto gelding has raced five times and finished runner-up in his last two races but his campaign stalled a month ago when he was found to be lame after Moreira raised concerns with his action pre-race.
"He was scratched last start because of a health issue but I'm sure John (Size) has got him right at this time. He's a nice young horse with a bright future ahead of him," Moreira said.
Size said: "He seems OK, he's been OK for us at home--I can't find anything amiss with him. He's certainly capable of winning in Class 4, he's got a very awkward draw for a horse with speed--he's drawn barrier 12 so it'll be difficult for him from there but you never know."
Jolly Honour for returning Van Niekerk
Also returning from suspension is Grant van Niekerk, the 28-year-old was outed for two days but is looking to get rolling again with a full book of rides at Happy Valley this Wednesday.
Now in his second term, the South African enjoyed a stellar 2018-19 by securing 31 wins, a score he is on track to eclipse with 31 wins already next to his name this season.
"It's not very nice because I missed out on a Class 1 win--obviously in Hong Kong you always want to be riding, you don't want to be missing meetings but I suppose though it's inevitable. It's going to happen and it's very strict in the boardroom," Van Niekerk said.
Among his haul this term is the Group 2 Premier Bowl on Seasons Bloom and Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (1000m) on Big Party, his second and third at Pattern level in Hong Kong, while he was also a head off securing his first Group 1 in Hong Kong when Thanks Forever narrowly missed in January's Centenary Sprint Cup.
"Racing here is quick--you're always trying to get the best position so occasionally you are going to find a bit of trouble every now and then, I just have to make sure it doesn't happen as often and going forward I'm ensuring I do my best to stay out of the boardroom."
Wednesday morning's card sees Van Niekerk return with eight chances, including Takingufurther in the Class 3 Kowloon City Handicap (1200m).
"It was a nice win last start--this is a little bit more of a competitive field, I have plenty of respect for This Is Class who I think is quite a good horse--so I have to try and beat him," Van Niekerk said.
"He's a horse that if he goes forward he gives his best, he much prefers to be there," the South African said.
Van Niekerk also combines with Me Tsui for two rides; the pair have been a formidable combination this season teaming up for six wins, one of those wins coming with Jolly Honour, who contests the second section of the Class 3 San Po Kong Handicap (1650m).
"He's a bit of a cheeky horse to ride--I sort of have to go a little early on him because he gets going but he doesn't really turn it on as you'd want him to," Van Niekerk said.
"I think last time I went a touch too soon so they caught me at the end, I'll just be a little bit more patient and ride the race as it goes."
The duo also link up with Victory For All in the Class 4 To Kwa Wan Handicap (1200m). The son of Holy Roman Emperor surprised when he flashed home at 89/1 from the tail of the field last start over this course and distance to finish third, beaten by half-a-length.
"I had no confidence going into the race but Me Tsui mentioned that he was working well, I just gave him a chance from that draw and he finished his race off really well, I don't really want to change much with him into his next run--I'll just give him a chance and hopefully he can do the same," Van Niekerk said.
The gelding will step out from gate seven for Van Niekerk against 11 rivals.
"He can be a bit closer this time without having to chase as much from the good draw but as long as he switches off, I'm sure he'll give me a good finish," he said.
Wednesday morning's eight-race card at Happy Valley commences at 6:15 a.m. ET / 3:15 a.m. PT with the Class 5 Ma Tau Wai Handicap (1000m).