The only surprise about a surprise in the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup is that it was considered a surprise, given the race's history.

We have just three races at 2,400 metres all season and their recent composite record suggests that lack of familiarity breeds contemptuous results, at least if you like a shortie.

The past 50 races at 2,400m have produced only 10 winning outright favourites - a particularly poor strike rate considering there are two terms races, usually with a warm favourite and often an odds-on in the Champions & Chater.

The past 50 races at 2,400m have produced only 10 winning outright favourites - a particularly poor strike rate considering there are two terms races

Another 10 winners have been 20-1 or longer and more than a third have run around at double-figure odds or longer. Contrast that with Hong Kong racing's standard - a long term win rate of only around 20 per cent for horses at 11.0 or more, and that's mostly on handicap events, which should produce more outsiders than terms races.

There is something odd with 2,400m races at Sha Tin. Maybe it is the tempo.

Or maybe it's the tempo.

This season alone, Dominant was over 12-1 winning the Longines Hong Kong Vase, Bubble Chic 20-1 in the Queen Mother Memorial and now Blazing Speed at almost 25-1.

All of them were extremely tactical races, something they have in common with most races here once the distance gets to 2,000m and beyond.

It is a fact of life that our 2,400m races - certainly the two domestic events - are frequently populated by horses of dubious staying ability, or with limited practice at it, which are often cuddled to run out the distance rather than making bold moves to put pressure on the leaders getting things way too easily.

And, since importing stayers is poison here given their lack of opportunity, fields are small and that makes them even more liable to the slow-slower-dash home shape.

The exception this season was the 2,200m feeder event to the Queen Mother Memorial, when Liberator and Sunny Ying bothered each other enough through the first half mile that the race was there to win for Travel Brand coming from a clear last.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the next race run like that, but seeing one every now and again tends to fuel that optimistic view that "there'll be pace" when they get to the main game.

Sunday's race had three front runners, but that only generates pace when two take up arms over the lead - most riders are comfortable if they are near enough to see the front.

Sunday's race was harder than usual on horses coming from the back, when the gentle early tempo up front picked up a decent way out. Their riders did not fall for the trap of going too slow for too long and losing their advantage, instead forcing back runners to sustain their runs for quite a way.

For Designs On Rome, the excuse in defeat was a combination of that with the likelihood he had come to the end of things. This time Dibayani was better than him - unthinkable off their previous meetings.

However, Dibayani was having the fifth run of his campaign. Designs On Rome was on his seventh and coming off two gut-busters in the Derby and QE II Cup, the latter having already left Military Attack empty for his trip to Singapore.

 


 

Berlinski's positive test for arsenic will have wide repercussions

So here we are again in zilpaterol land one year down the track but, for this performance, the role of zilpaterol will be played by arsenic.

David Hall and the owner of Berlinski are going to lose a race win - and Zac Purton pick up one more victory - over it and ultimately the drug will be found to have been contained in feed and in a feed supplement. And from what we have heard, the two come from opposite ends of the world.

What seems a little surprising is not many laboratories used for racing purposes have the capacity to test for arsenic. (It just seems odd because it was widely used in small doses as a "tonic" for horses long before there was testing. There is a well-aired theory that it killed the legendary Phar Lap. Arsenic is not totally eliminated from the body after consumption but leaves a residue that builds over time and it eventually poisoned the champion.)

It is so good it could probably find a fly's eyelash on the dark side of the moon

Obviously, the Jockey Club laboratory can test for arsenic. It is so good it could probably find a fly's eyelash on the dark side of the moon, but you also have to wonder if it has some potential to be a negative. There was plenty of blowback for the American feed company that supplied the zilpaterol-contaminated feed, including chipping in for disposal and compensating two sets of owners for lost prize money.

If the road leads back to someone's door for the arsenic and compensation is sought, is there a danger that whoever manufactures that product - or another that is supplied to the Jockey Club - may think again on whether it's worth the trouble for however much 1,200 horses can consume?

In the case of the feed product, we are told only four trainers at Sha Tin use it. So a feed supplier might be running risk to its reputation supplying thousands of yards elsewhere, where the occasional contamination might occur without being discovered.
 


Valley 'C+3' is more like an 'F-minus'

We overlooked this, but a super big thanks to the relevant departments at Sports Road for making everyone suffer through one of those dreadful Happy Valley C+3 meetings last week.

With just Wednesday night and next Thursday before Happy Valley goes on holiday - which was not just sprung on anyone - surely we could have had a more palatable rail placement but, no, it was a robotic C+3 follows C.

Surely we could have had a more palatable rail placement but, no, it was a robotic C+3 follows C

One of the real downsides to the Jockey Club being granted those extra five race meetings a few years ago has been the revival of a C+3 circuit at the Valley, which had just about been killed off.

As much as we hate the all-weather track - and this in no way indemnifies that surface from a reassessment in a couple of months - it still beats the Valley C+3 hands down.

 

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