The ability of Hong Kong’s racetracks to withstand deluges that would cripple other jurisdictions has long been the subject of much fascination and Jockey Club head of race day operations Stephen Higgins has offered an intriguing insight into the mechanics behind their remarkable drainage.
After 488mm of rain between Friday and 9am on Sunday morning – and much speculation, largely from abroad, about whether Sunday’s card would take place – the Sha Tin turf raced as good to yielding for four races before being upgraded to good for the final two contests on the surface.
The Hong Kong racing community often jokes that the Jockey Club has a direct line to the weather gods and two days of treacherous conditions caused by Tropical Storm Lionrock gave way to a comparatively clear day on Sunday.
“It walked really well this morning and we always knew from walking this morning that it’d race where we wanted it to be. We’re very pleased with the turf,” Higgins said.
“It’s two factors. One; it was constructed on a pure sand profile, so it’s just sand through to the perch water table and then it runs to the drain, but I think for me the most important thing is the fact that we don’t leave any grass clippings on the track.
“So we effectively take off the grass clippings when we cut the grass, so you don’t get that organic material sitting above the sand layer.
“That’s what sometimes traps the moisture and slows down the filtration rates. It hits the sand profile and goes straight through, whereas if you cut the clippings and you’ve got those sitting on top of the sand profile that’s where you get the concern because you can get localised areas where it just isn’t draining as quick. I think that’s the major issue.”
Higgins outlined the importance of the “consistency of movement of water from the surface through” when explaining how the drainage works.
“We’ve got two layers of sand and then effectively a perched water table, so the water table is artificially high, so the water hits that and runs horizontally off to the drain,” he said.
Setback delays Wellington’s return
The start to Group One winner Wellington’s 2021-22 campaign has been delayed after the reigning Chairman’s Sprint Prize champion pulled up sore after a trial at Sha Tin on Tuesday.
Wellington did enough to salute over 1,000m on the Sha Tin turf in his first hit-out of the season but will miss his intended return in the Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m) on October 17.
“I would describe it as a niggle, no one likes problems or niggles so he won’t be running on the 17th and hopefully we’ll get him sorted and we’ll see him in November [for the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint],” said trainer Richard Gibson.
After winning the Chairman’s Sprint Prize as a four-year-old in April, Wellington is at the forefront of a rejuvenation of the Hong Kong sprinting ranks that also features the likes of Sky Field, Courier Wonder, Naboo Attack and Nervous Witness.
There were positives elsewhere for Gibson on Sunday, however, with Soccer Master taking out the Class Five Tai Ho Handicap (1,400m) in his first start for the stable after being sent out a $19.45 chance.
No Anomaly for Ting, Yeung
Jimmy Ting Koon-ho believes The Anomaly can continue climbing up the ratings after a classy all-the-way victory at Sha Tin on Sunday.
After a solid first-up run – finishing third with an excuse (a substantial amount of mucus in the trachea) – punters expected the four-year-old son of Real Impact to bounce back and secure his second win at start number six in the Class Four Sha Tsui Handicap (1,400m).
They didn’t have a moment’s worry with Keith Yeung Ming-lun rolling forward and controlling the race from the outset, holding off a late challenge by the second favourite Stunning Impact to salute by three-quarters of a length.
The Anomaly had never led in the early stages of any of his previous races but Ting was keen to see what the gelding was capable of from that position.
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“[We were] lucky because in this race there are no horses that go in front,” he said. “I said ‘Keith, if there are no horses to go in front, go by yourself. If there are some horses that go crazy, sit second or third.’
“I think this horse has some class. He’s very competitive and he can still improve. He’s a nice horse.”
The win was the second of the season for Yeung, who also tasted success on one of Ting’s horses in Shadow Breaker on Wednesday night.
It was the first of a double on the day for the trainer with The Mint (Matthew Chadwick) improving sharply on his previous form to claim the Class Four Tak Wah Handicap (1,650m) on the all-weather track.
Who’s your Excellent Daddy?
The Benno Yung Tin-pang-trained Excellent Daddy continues to adapt to life in Hong Kong, notching his first win in his new home in the Class Three Yeung Uk Handicap (1,200m).
While punters were focused on Gluck Racer and California Cible, it was Excellent Daddy who came out on top, jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun giving him the gun run from barrier four.
The five-year-old was able to slot into the box seat behind First Responder before those two duked it out in the straight, ultimately prevailing in that battle by a head.
It was Excellent Daddy’s fourth start at Sha Tin and he continues to improve after two solid efforts last season and a pipe-opener on the dirt last month.
Yung now has four winners for the campaign, the same tally as Leung.
Chau ticks off first senior success
After completing his apprenticeship with his 70th victory at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, Jerry Chau Chun-lok had to wait all of six rides for his first success as a senior jockey, which came aboard Harmony Win Win in the Class Four Yan Chai Trophy (1,400m).
It was one of eight rides Chau had for former boss Douglas Whyte on the afternoon and the 21-year-old was pleased to keep things ticking over.
“I had full support from my old boss and he gave me some good rides,” Chau said. “Harmony Win Win is more mature this season and the ground suited him to today.”
Chau is easing into life as a freelance jockey, confirming he will live on course at Sha Tin for a few more months while he looks for a place of his own.