Whyte to make his mark
Apart from the four mouthwatering International events on offer this afternoon, there are also five hotly contested local races which provide both quality and competitiveness. And, as if that were not enough, there is also $38 million to kick-start the Triple Trio pool, which is likely to rise as high as $70 million by the close of betting.
Everyone wants to win on Hong Kong's biggest day of the season and champion jockey Douglas Whyte looks well placed to star on the undercard. The talented South African rider appears to have good chances in all five of the local events, and particularly genuine winning hopes on his first three rides (races one, two and four).
Whyte's best chance of the day comes in the fourth event aboard the highly progressive Ferrule. The well-bred son of Danehill narrowly failed to win on his last start when he was caught in the shadow of the post by Smiling Forest over 1,200 metres. The move up to 1,400 metres today is ideal and the fact that he has shown further improvement in his work since his last run suggests he will take all the beating. He has also had the luck of the draw in gate four, from where Whyte should be able to give him the run of the race.
There are a few dangers, one being John Size's new recruit Run And Win. The highly consistent son of Last Tycoon has been most impressive in recent barrier trials for his new yard and his form prior to that had been rock solid.
Anton Marcus had an awkward ride on the way to victory aboard Thunder Storm last time when the son of Jade Hunterlooked particularly green as he cruised to victory. There is loads of improvement to come from this lightly-raced sort and he is one for the shortlist.
Paobridge had the measure of Ferrule on their respective debuts and, while he was a shade disappointing last time, the son of Coronation Day is still on the upgrade. His work since his last run has picked up a fraction and he can figure in the finish despite a poor draw.
Lion Rock and Lightning Bolt make most appeal from the remainder and both have displayed enough potential to be in the mix-up.
Whyte's second-best chance is aboard Geoff Lane's Grandioso, who won a trial in impressive manner recently. He finished a game third to Eastern Magnate last time and is another who appears to be improving with each run this term. The son of Kaapstad is drawn favourably and will be hard to beat.
The main quinella chance is Snippedydooda, who is a highly progressive sort destined to rise higher in the handicap. His form this season has been exceptional, with two victories and a creditable last-start second to Precision, and he would arguably have been the one to beat in this event if he had drawn a better alley.
The other main threat is likely to come from UK import Baccura, who was clearly not suited by the minimum 1,000-metre trip at Happy Valley on his debut and is open to plenty of improvement. He will be fitter for that outing and will no doubt be suited to the long straight at Sha Tin, which should give him a chance to wind up fully.
Chutzpah has been working in sensational fashion recently and the step back to 1,400 metres gives him claims to make the frame.
Joint Peace, Whyte's mount in the opening race, has each-way claims as he has held his form well this season, with a win and a second from two starts. He was beaten fair and square by Snippedydooda last time, but prior to that defeated the progressive Lightning Bolt in a tenacious victory.
The main quinella pick is debutant Prince O'Reilly, who has been highly impressive in his work and trials leading up to his first appearance. He is a striking sort and could well make into a very smart horse indeed.
Watch for an improved effort from Jimmy The Greek, who has recently been picked up by John Size. His only outing this season came in quite a sound form race with several runners subsequently winning.