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Wide draws for fancied runners could prove interesting at the HKIR


Steve Moran | 08.12.2018

Light but steady rain, over the past two days in Hong Kong, has provided a murky backdrop to the well attended morning track work sessions ahead of Sunday’s four international races at Sha Tin.

The precipitation, however, has possibly done less to cloud the likely outcome of the four Group 1 races than the barrier draw which has no fewer than six highly fancied runners drawn widest or near widest in all races bar the Cup. They are, in race order, Mirage Dancer, Prince Of Arran (Vase); Hot King Prawn, Fine Needle (Sprint); Beauty Generation, Persian Knight (Mile).

 

The rain, while continuing in patches according to the forecast, will not significantly affect a track which Persian Knight’s trainer Yasutoshi Ikee yesterday described as ‘harder than ever’. It won’t be soft – barring a deluge on the day.

 

As to the draws, they will likely impact markets. As to outcomes, quite possibly but as I’ve learned – often at a cost – their true relevance is generally only known after 400 metres which is too late with most bookmakers I know.

 

Each of the races has a level of depth, largely provided by the Japanese and a level of intrigue largely provided by just how we will assess Hong Kong stars Beauty Generation and Hot King Prawn come Sunday night.

 

The Vase brings together a fascinating and disparate set of form lines. Given that the great females Enable and Almond Eye were never going to come, and the retirement of Cracksman, Poet’s Word and Cloth Of Stars, it’s about as good a 2400 metres field as you could assemble right now.

 

We have the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe form of Waldgeist and Salouen versus the Melbourne Cup form (Prince Of Arran and Rostropovich) to weigh up against Japan’s QEII Cup (Lys Gracieux and Crocosmia) plus the Hong Kong form along with the linked Mirage Dancer, Red Verdon and the Mackinnon Stakes runner-up Latrobe.

 

It all adds up to a punting Rubik’s Cube. There’ll be a solution, it’ll just be hard to find. I’m not sure I have it but I do expect the Japanese females Lys Gracieux and Crocosmia to be over the odds.

 

They ran one-two in the QEII Cup and gapped their rivals headed by Mozu Katchan who’d stretched the Hong Kong Cup favourite Sungrazer at her previous start. Their form also ties in with Deirdre who’s second favourite for the Cup.

 

The Hong Kong Sprint looks the most straightforward, at least in theory, of the four races. I’d be surprised if the winner didn’t come from the trio of Hot King Prawn, Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock.

 

Hot King Prawn is one of the aforementioned runners drawn nearer Sha Tin racecourse MTR station than the inside rail but it doesn’t look to be a high pressure race. He should cross without expending too much energy. He’s won nine from ten and I’m with him again at a backable, albeit short, price.

 

Similarly, Beauty Generation should be able to overcome his wide draw. A field of 14 might generate its own pressure but there is no other natural leader. Half the world seemingly wants to shout that he couldn’t possibly produce another peak run while the other half wants to whisper that his feet are an issue.

 

As to the first assertion you’ll lose your mind, and sometimes your money, if you keep wanting to second guess that a fantastically in-form horse can’t repeat. As to the second, I well remember Vision D’Etat being declared ‘not right’ before the 2009 Cup and promptly winning after easing in the market.

 

The William Haggas trained mare One Master appeals as the best at odds in the Mile as her run in the Breeders Cup Mile – her first attempt at the distance – was excellent given she was in the worst ground.

 

The Hong Kong Cup is something of a conundrum. Might Time Warp be allowed to lead unchallenged and consequently turn his form around or will Glorious Forever or Staphanos apply some pressure and set the race up for the likes of visitors Sungrazer and Deirdre, plus a couple of handy ‘over the odds’ locals in Seasons Bloom and Gold Mount? I suspect it might be the latter.


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