Trainers are scrambling to secure runs for their Class Four sprinters with a total of 19 reserves for Saturday’s Sha Tin meeting as they look to blood new horses towards the back end of the season.
A total of 47 horses were nominated for the two Class Four 1,200m contests on Saturday, leaving more than enough runners for an extra race but officials opted against creating a third section.
Second-season handler Jimmy Ting Koon-ho nominated four horses for the two races in the hope an additional race would be added to the card but was left with two runners instead.
“Now it is very hard, I don’t know why there are so many but it seems it is harder to get them into those races now,” he said.
“I was hoping there would be an extra race, when I entered them I thought they might split it into three races, but they didn’t so that is that, it is out of my control.”
Rival Me Tsui Yu-sak can also count himself unlucky after entering five horses across the two races and ending up with just two runners.
Trainers are given two “trump cards” per meeting, a feature which is used to guarantee the selected horse a run, but many trainers have opted against using them in Class Four 1,200m contests recently for two reasons.
Firstly, there is no guarantee it will work and secondly, it is a waste of a trump card if officials decide to split the race.
“There is no need to use the trump card because sometimes you still don’t get in,” Ting said after using his two cards on Hardly Swears in the Class Three Cheung Chau Handicap (1,200m) and Momentum Happy in the Class Four Tung Lung Chau Handicap (1,650m).
With three consecutive meetings at Sha Tin looming, Jockey Club officials said they erred on the side of caution when it comes to adding extra races to an already jam-packed schedule, adding that they expect horses to get their opportunities by the end of the season.
The logjam of runners is further reflected in next Wednesday’s Establishment Day meeting where a total of 26 runners were nominated for the sole Class Four 1,200m race on turf.
As a result of the backlog, Class Four 1,400m races have also filled up.
Saturday’s Class Four Po Toi Handicap (1,400m) attracted 26 entries while Wednesday’s edition has 24, meaning 22 horses will miss out on a run in the space of five days.
With the Class Three sprinting ranks currently lacking depth, there is a hope among programmers that the current crop of Class Four gallopers can progress up in grade, rather than down.
One well on his way to Class Three is the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Mighty Valor who is looking to back up his four-and-a-half length romp earlier this month on a rain-affected track.
The three-year-old made a quiet start to his racing career but kicked into gear under jockey Matthew Poon Ming-fai for the dominant victory where he went wire-to-wire.
He heads a promising three-year-old batch who are looking to make their presence felt next season.
Included in that group is the Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained Rewarding Together.
The son of Pierro impressed on debut under Derek Leung Ka-chun and looks set to get every opportunity from gate four on Saturday.