Track times betray true conditions on fast-degrading circuit
The surface for last week's Happy Valley card didn't appear to degrade as much as for previous meetings, although almost certainly that was because the sandmesh track started the evening riding slower than usual.
Officially, the city track was riding 'good to firm' for all seven races, but the times suggest conditions were no faster than 'good' from the off and had degraded to the slow side of 'good' by the fourth heat.
The evening kicked off with an uncompetitive Class Four contest over 1,650 metres, and Telecom Boss ran home a convincing winner from Strategic Move and King Of Kings, with the remainder strung out behind.
But even allowing for 'good' rather than 'good to firm' ground, his winning time of one minute and 42.5 seconds should be regarded as no more than solid, equating to a Topspeed rating of 45 which mirrors his previous best, but which was still lower than his official rating of 48.
Similarly, the runner-up Strategic Move reproduced his previous best time figure of 43, while King Of Kings earned a speed rating of 32. Although the Alan Munro galloper clocked a rating of 49 as a griffin, last week's effort represents a one-point improvement on his recent best.
It is a similar story for the second race, the Class Four Pak Tin Handicap over 1,200 metres, with All-Winners earning a Topspeed rating of 47 compared to his best of 54.
Vantage Point chased the Geoff Lane-trained sprinter home, and is the one to note out of the race. An improving sort, he clocked a rating of 46 last week compared to a 32 on his debut. He certainly should not be long in going one better.
In contrast, the third, Basketball Leader, appears to be continuing downhill.
This temperamental sort was once capable of running a speed figure of 63, then he looked no better than a 53, then 49, and this time he ran to a 43.
Still, he remains capable of placing, and perhaps this maiden is just a thinker who runs as fast as those around without wanting to get his head in front.
The most exciting prospect on show was Topspin, who landed the closing Class Two Nam Cheong Handicap over 1,200 metres. Again his winning Topspeed rating of 61 was only solid, but this unbeaten David Hayes-trained colt clocked 79 on his previous start and probably does enough to win. The better the company he mixes with, the better the time figures may prove.
At Sha Tin on Saturday, conditions were faster than the official 'good' going suggests. In the opening Class Three Ham Tin Handicap over 1,200 metres, Rory's Bid stepped up on his debut start (rated 37) to score with a highly encouraging 68 Topspeed, and could be a horse to keep on the right side of.
Seemingly the best time performance relative to class was returned by Happy King in the second heat, the Tsuen Lok Handicap for Class Six animals over 1,400 metres. He recorded a relatively useful 45 speed figure.
Considering he went into the race officially rated only 24, that looks a particularly noteworthy effort. However, excitement has to be tempered with the knowledge that the class system in the territory allows for the handicap scale to be artificially elongated. That is those at the top are rated artificially high and those at the bottom are capable of winning a race too low.
All the time evidence suggests the spread of ratings is far too great. Saturday's win was only four points superior to Happy King's previous best, this was only his second career win, and it came in a Class Six race.
That said, Happy King is still obviously capable of winning again back in his own grade (Class Five).
The runner-up, Genuine Pearls, left his previous efforts behind by earning a time figure of 33 and, having started life in Class Four, is now well placed to win a race.
Barish confirmed the improvement shown last time by clocking a Topspeed rating of 40. He too should be found a race.