If Joyful Trinity advanced his claims towards being included in a Longines Hong Kong Mile field on Saturday, history suggests he didn’t do anything towards advancing his winning claims for the race.
The reality of the National Day Cup meeting most years is that we are stuck in the ‘phoney’ part of the elite season before Sha Tin Trophy day later this month starts to shed more light on where things are heading.
There have been occasions when the National Day Cup – the Celebration Cup as it has been renamed for the past three runnings, for absolutely no good reason – might have been meaningful. Champion galloper Fairy King Prawn resumed for the 2001-02 season with a solid win in the race under top weight but broke down soon after and never raced again.
A similar fate has befallen a few others but the black and white is that no National Day/Celebration Cup victor has ever won a race of any kind on international day.
At one stage, its winners were well beaten in the Class One on international day, so it has arguably lifted recently to the extent that the winners have made it to the Group Ones in December and Gold-Fun was twice second in the Hong Kong Mile.
But there is no clear encouragement to say that Joyful Trinity is an international winner in waiting, even if Western Bulldogs fans filled their pockets when the omen tip of the day won carrying colours very similar to those of the winning Australian Football League grand final side an hour earlier.
He has considerable improvement still to make and how long Moreira will take to switch over to one of the real contenders? The Brazilian also has Able Friend sitting in the Hong Kong Mile wings but the clock is ticking on John Moore having the champ ready by December 11.
Such a big, strong horse, he won’t have raced for almost a year by the time he does appear and it isn’t like he has been in the stables all that time – he was out in a paddock for months.
It might be Moore’s crowning achievement as a trainer if he has Able Friend ready to win the Mile on international day.
Like the 1,400m race, the 1,000m sprint – formerly the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy but also renamed for no good reason – hasn’t exactly churned out international winners.
Silent Witness won both the early prep race and the major, back in the days when the Hong Kong Sprint was also over 1,000m but, since the international moved to 1,200m, Sacred Kingdom in 2007 was the only winner of both.
Pat on the back for the Sha Tin track
Whatever can be said about the equine heroes of last Saturday’s racing and where they might or might not be going, the real hero of the National Day meeting was surely the Sha Tin track.
We all get a bit blasé in Hong Kong about how good the tracks are and even the Jockey Club’s executive manager of tracks, Pako Ip Pak-chung brushed it off as unsurprising, but not many jurisdictions elsewhere would have been able to hold this important meeting with its implications for international campaigns.
During Saturday morning, up to 9am, Sha Tin was doused with 138.6 millimetres of rain yet, less than four hours later, the track was being, somewhat conservatively, upgraded to good to yielding before a second upgrade to good.
There seemed some school of thought that on-pace was favoured early but, when leaders were winning, it had more to do with sustained smooth speed from the leaders, unlike some later events when the “Go Too Slow Club” stepped up. Then front runners dropped anchor at mid-stages of some races and disadvantaged themselves, providing an illusion that the track had changed character.
Typical of the tracks here, though, a huge downpour followed by some hours to rest and drain led to strong raw times all day.
Japanese punters make their presence felt
In March, we wondered aloud in this space about the potential holdings for Japan Racing Association wagering of foreign events and the answer was resounding after the simulcasting made its debut with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the weekend.
While Hong Kong’s punters bet more per race across the full spectrum of classes, Japanese punters centre on major events rather than the daily grind and the JRA generally holds US$100 million-plus on its own Group One races, with well over US$300 million bet on the Arima Kinen last December.
As an opening gambit the US$41.3 million on the Arc looked pretty solid, since it was more than France’s PMU betting handle for the entire day, and the figures also backed up the primary reason that the JRA has begun simulcasting – national pride.
A stated proviso for any foreign simulcast is that there must be Japanese participation in the race so the Victoria Racing Club will be keen to see Curren Mirotic taking his place in the Melbourne Cup next month.
And we read that there may even be a late plea for a simulcast of a race from the Breeders’ Cup if talented mare Nuovo Record makes the trip to Santa Anita.
While the Melbourne Cup in particular might be thought able to stand on its own, with or without Japan, the fees from another US$40 million bet on the race in Japan would be a number at which not to be sniffed. Who knows, now they’ve had a taste of overseas betting, the Japanese punters might take to it and that figure gets boosted, their disappointment in Makahiki’s finishing position notwithstanding.
The most interesting aspect of the betting breakdown in Japan, though, was that the national pride angle was fully justified.
In the Group One Sprinters Stakes at home on Sunday, Japanese punters’ win betting accounted for just 4 per cent of the total US$125 million but more than double that on the Arc, where the figure was 8.6 per cent for win bets.
Japanese punters clearly wanted to cheer home their local hero, who ran marginally favourite on the JRA tote ahead of Postponed, who was favourite everywhere else, and bets were reduced on the more popular exotic pools and migrated into the win turnover.
Of course, behind these figures for simulcasts holding bets into sequestered Japanese pools lies the tasty prospect that, one day, they might be commingled with the home pools overseas and the muscle of Japanese turnover will really be felt.