Sunday’s card at Sha Tin is the biggest day of racing of the season yet, with a pair of Group 2’s and the return of some of Hong Kong racing’s superstars, including MG1W and HK Derby winner, Werther and international runners Peniaphobia and Beauty Only. The International Races are just 7 weeks away, and Sunday will have major implications on the shape of the final field.
Today’s Race of the Day is Race 7, the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap over 1200M (6F). It’s a fascinating race that requires us to analyze who is ready to win vs. who is using this as a spring board. Lucky Bubbles is a big favorite early, but he’ll need to bring his A game to add this G2 to his resume.
We start with the 2 top rated horses in Hong Kong: #1 Mr Stunning, and #2 TheWizardofOZ.
Mr Stunning had a sparkling run of form at the start of last season, capturing 4 wins, including a key win over Lucky Bubbles in April in the Sprint Cup, before just missing against that rival in the Sha Tin Vase. But he then disappointed with an empty effort to close out the season, before a long layoff. In the comebacker last week, he popped to the lead before weakening late going a sub-optimal 1000M. That race looks like a lot like a prep, and even if we would have liked to see more late, he should be tighter for this. He has shown the ability to win from just about anywhere in the race, and Rawiller will have options from the 6 hole. It’s fair to wonder whether he is quite as good as the best horses in here, and the recent form is questionable, but he can’t be counted out, and the current 10-1 may represent value.
TheWizardofOz is dangerous under Moreira. The 6 time winner missed significant time in 2016 into 2017 with a series of physical issues, but came back with a series of solid finishes against the top sprinters in Hong Kong, before finally announcing that he was back to form by blowing the doors off the Premier Cup in June as the highweight. He has looked good in his trials coming back into this, but there are several causes for pause. There is some risk of getting caught wide from the 10 hole, as he likely looks to rally from mid-pack. This distance also looks like it may be a touch shorter than his best, and could be a bit of tune-up for the HKIR in December. There’s no question that he has the class to belong here though. Respect.
#3 Lucky Bubbles, winner of this race last year, arguably stamped himself as the most consistent top class sprinter in Hong Kong last season with 6 in-the-money finishes from 6 starts against the best sprinters on the grounds, and he ended the season on a high note with a victory in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize over Mr Stunning. He has posted 2 strong trials coming into this, and is tough to knock, but it’s unclear how significant an edge he truly holds over his rivals here. The speed figure edge is minimal, and the connections surely have HKIR dreams 2 months from now. He’s currently 6-5 in the betting and while he’s the one to beat, has too little room for early to accept that price.
#4 Peniaphobia is the battled hardened veteran in the field. A 9-time winner in Hong Kong with high early speed, he comes into this with the benefit of a prep race in the National Day Cup over 1000M. Given his back class and tactical speed, he has to be taken seriously, but the feeling is that he has lost a step or 2 from his very best form. If he gets away to an easy lead, he’ll be tough to catch, but Fabulous One is likely to make his life difficult from the bell, and we can’t recommend a win bet against these at this stage of his career.
#5 Not Listen’tome is just under a year removed from a 43-1 shock upset of Lucky Bubbles, and while he hasn’t found the winner’s circle again since, he’s run a series of creditable performances, and always seems to be in the mix turning for home with a high level of tactical speed. On speed figures, he’s another that doesn’t quite seem at the top level of some of the competition, however. On the positive side, he battled on well in that 1000M prep race, has a good draw, and Tommy Berry, stable rider for John Moore, ends up here. Needs everything to break perfectly for the win, but a strong contender for a minor placing.
#6 Amazing Kids is another who flashed a strong run of form at the start of last season, just missing in last year’s edition of this race behind Lucky Bubbles. After a layoff from Feb-to-May, his 2 races were noticeably less competitive, and in the October 1st race, he showed little before leveling off and making a non-threatening rally. While he finds himself in a wide gate (again), the impact may be limited as Prebble will likely look to tuck in at the back and make a well-timed rally anyway. If you believe that he needed his last and could be set now, you can build a case at 34-1. Overlay.
#7 Dashing Fellow won the National Day Cup over 1000M 3 weeks ago at a big price and demands respect off that effort along, but he is liable to find this group much tougher. Must appreciate his tactical speed, but before the National Day he finished 7th in 3 straight efforts at the top level. His one win last season was at Class 1, but made fully use of a light impost, and likely needs more of a break than what he’ll catch today. Not expecting him to hang around for the final furlong today.
#8 DB Pin is very interesting, as he comes off a strong 3rd place finish in the National Day, and looks to build on an impressive season in which he captured 5 wins and 2 2nd from 7 races, while progressing from Class 4 to finish 2nd in a Group 3. He get in fairly light once again, getting 16 pounds from Lucky Bubbles, and also has the tactical speed to find himself in a good spot turning from home. In these top level handicaps, the horses climbing the ladder who get in light can often outrun their odds, and this might just be the opportunity for DB Pin to steal one from the top HK sprinters. No one is riding better than Karis Teetan right now, and while DB hasn’t proven himself at this level just yet, the situation shapes up very well. Big shot, at a great price.
#9 Fabulous One is a need-the-lead type and will be winging early. Can he outduel Peniaphobia and hang on late? That seems like a tall order, as he doesn’t have a recent victory above Class 2, and even though he get in at 113 lbs, that’s just 2 pounds off his last race and wouldn’t upgrade the recent form too significantly based off that. Still, the 3rd in the race 2-back against Seasons Bloom was solid and hints that he may get brave one of these days. He’s up against it, but can’t ever dismiss speed with a light impost entirely.
#10 Magic Legend began his HK career with 4 wins, but has been hard to pin down since. He held his own against some strong fields to close out last season, and kicked off the season with a solid 4th in that very strong class 1 behind Seasons Bloom and Blizzard. He then followed up that up with a collapse after a puzzling ride on the front end, and a grinding performance over a too-short 1000M. With the right trip, expect better and for him to be closing late, but he seems a notch below the top contenders in here, and the current 10-1 feels too short for the win end.
#11 Strathmore appears in over his head. He has been well beaten in recent attempts at this level with a similarly light weight, and looks like he needs easier to show his best.