The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s first brush with Covid-19 since it ramped up crowd numbers at the start of the season won’t have any greater implications for racing in Hong Kong, with things to proceed as planned for Friday’s National Day meeting at Sha Tin.
The Jockey Club has been tangled up in the Hong Kong government’s exhaustive Covid-19 protocols after someone who attended the Happy Valley races has since travelled outside Hong Kong and tested positive on return.
“In view of two preliminary positive imported cases who had stayed in Hong Kong during the incubation period, 13 specified places are included in a compulsory testing notice,” the Hong Kong government said in a statement on Monday.
While it is unknown which of the imported cases was present at Happy Valley, the Jockey Club confirmed both tested negative before departing Hong Kong on September 10 and 11 and only tested positive at the Hong Kong International Airport upon return to Hong Kong on September 26.
Among the 13 places to have been visited by the imported cases were three venues at Happy Valley racecourse on September 8 – forecourt zone B, public takeaway counter 1A on the first floor of the grandstand and the forecourt takeaway counter in the beer garden.
The opening-day meeting at Sha Tin on September 5 attracted 16,356 spectators – the biggest attendance since January 1 last year – and a healthy crowd is expected on Friday, with Jockey Club executive Bill Nader confirming it is business as usual heading towards the second Group meeting of the season.
“The people that work within the racing bubble are all fine, so there’s no impact on the conduct of putting the racing on. We’ll be good to go on Friday, no problem,” he said.
National Day Cup bursting at the seams
Could the National Day Cup provide a welcome tonic after Sunday’s uninspiring Celebration Cup, which saw the limited Buddies cause a boilover in the season’s first Group contest?
It’s a little early to get too excited but on a positive note, the race will boast its first full field since Sacred Kingdom blitzed his 13 rivals as the $1.55 favourite in 2007.
Friday’s renewal of the 1,000m Group Three – which was known as the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy from its inception in 2003 until 2013 – is even oversubscribed, with Lucky More unable to make the final field of 14.
ICYMI, Caspar Fownes had winners at Sha Tin yesterday!— Hong Kong Racing (@HongKong_Racing) June 21, 2021
Here's a reminder of Sky Field's win in the G3 Premier Cup ⤵️pic.twitter.com/cVrvXCEEa6
It’s a huge upswing for a race that could only attract seven runners in four of the past five years and has only reached double figures twice since 2011.
While the quantity makes a nice change for a race that had a full field for four or its first five runnings, the quality also stacks up reasonably well compared to recent iterations of the race.
With Wellington and Hot King Prawn to begin their campaigns over 1,200m in the coming weeks, there is no Group One winner in the field for the third straight year and there is no star – although Sky Field might have the potential to be one – however there are eight horses rated 105 or above.
On the flip side, the tail of the race could be reasonably long, with six 90-something rated gallopers out of the handicap completing the line-up.
Explosive Witness has form in the grade after knocking off the likes of Computer Patch and Stronger – both of whom he meets again here – in last season’s Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy at the course and distance.
Super Wealthy has targeted the race after trainer David Hayes declared he could be a Group One horse following a recent Class Two victory down the straight, while Hong Kong Win might have some claims after finishing within a neck of Super Wealthy in that race a couple of weeks ago.
With the most recent 1,000m Class Two at Sha Tin on September 12 and the next one not until November 21, it seems safe to assume the trainers of five-furlong specialists Classic Unicorn, Ping Hai Bravo and Valiant Dream have had their hands forced by the lack of options.
But while there may not be a Sacred Kingdom stepping out on Friday – or a horse of the calibre of the inaugural winner, one Silent Witness – punters should be treated to a willing National Day Cup featuring at least a couple of gallopers who could go on to bigger and better things.