Tracks are great, but bias rears its head
Full, and long overdue, credit to the Jockey Club staff in charge of the tracks - punters here rarely have to deal with that scourge of racetracks in many parts of the world, track bias.
Apart from the obvious idiosyncrasies fundamental to Happy Valley - and even some sort of miracle has been wrought on the dreaded C+3 course to take the venom out of its hot rail bias - this regular annoyance in other jurisdictions is an infrequent influence in Hong Kong's turf racing.
A slippery customer, track bias, as it mixes easily with the pace of races and one is often camouflaged by the other and the whole issue can be tied up in matters of opinion. And it's a bit like the universe - difficult to explain, it's just there.
But if one course is looking to have a look of regular and predictable bias about it at Sha Tin, it is the A+3 used on Monday, which is now starting to build a clear record of on-speed advantage to rival the B+2 a few years ago.
Monday's track was especially biased with virtually every winner in the first two around the home turn, only Tan Tat Baby getting home to score from midfield on straightening and even Bullish Cash had already joined the leaders at the 400-metre mark.
The bias appeared virtually invulnerable to tempo as well - the power of early work done by Opera Magic and Unique Jewellery battling for the front in the sixth race should have left them open to attack and it did.
Their final sectionals were the slowest of the day, yet run-on horses still didn't get into the race and Night Hunter III was probably one of the runs of the day, finishing fourth. Little wonder no-one could get past Nightlign when he was running the quickest finishing section of the meeting in the last race after not having to work too hard to be second on turning for home.
And if it seems a sudden and remote occurrence, it isn't. It was just the clearest evidence of the bias. In 44 previous circle races on the A+3 this season at Sha Tin, 23 winners were in front at the 400m mark soon after straightening and only three have been further back than fourth at that stage.
Something to think about next time the course is used, on May 1, for the GOME Sprint meeting.