Tag Archives: Hong Kong

Racing is Back!

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Racing is back! At least in the UK. We here in Ireland have to wait for another week.

Although it was only sand racing, having full fields at Newcastle this afternoon was certainly welcome… compared to none at all over the last while. Plus it’s only two more days until racing on green, lush turf returns as well.

It’s gonna be a packed schedule with top class racing over the next couple of weeks also. Those Classics are coming thick and fast right, left and center. France and Germany with their Guineas races today. Others will follow soon. Exciting times!

Looking back on the first day of the flat season 2020 I have mixed feelings, nonetheless. One the plus side I’ve also got an intriguing eye-catcher for the tracker for those readers who make it to end of my ramblings.

Racingpost is Poor Value

The sport I love is back: great! The print edition of the Racingpost is back: great! Not so great: one would have thought the editors had plenty of time to think about how to improve their product for when it returns to the shelves in a bid to entice prospective customers to buy a paper that comes with a whopping price tag of €4.20.

I’m afraid there was nothing in the “Bumper Edition” of the Racingpost that inspired me to pay such a steep price for something that would end in the recycle bin only half a day later.

Racing back in the UK. Top class races in France and Germany – there was plenty to cover. Yet the paper felt thin on actual, valuable content.

An interview with Lester Piggott on his remarkable career. That’s alright – I’ve got all respect for the man and his story – though, it’s hardly anything original these days. You can find plenty of similar interviews and articles with him for free (in fact RP published some under the “PR Classics” banner only recently).

A stable tour of Richard Hannon’s. Plus the usual tipsters and some race previews. Add racecards. That’s it.

In the day of online and mobile where everything is a swipe away all the time, publishers face an uphill battle, particularly with a niche print product such as the Racingpost. If you produce a paper that in essence has not changed in two decades and offers little real incentive to buy because of a lack of original content then you’ll struggle even more so.

I really wanted to buy the Racingpost this morning. Really wanted it. But a hefty €4.20 for what you get is simply no value for money. I’m not saying there is no value. Of course there is. For some people more than for others. But is it worth the price? I don’t think so. And that’s a shame.

More Data Please

I have thoroughly enjoyed dipping my toes into Hong Kong racing over the last weeks. Doing so, what becomes blatantly obvious – now that racing returns to more familiar places – what sets their product apart from ours here.

Hong Kong racing is all about providing relevant information, a myriad on data and a level of transparency with the aim of improving customer experience. Data that is freely available and easily accessible to all punters and racing fans alike for them to analyse- and better understand what- and why certain things happen in a race.

Free replays in excellent quality with different angles to chose from. Sectional times as well as every little detail on all the horses – be it their racing weight, injury history, or track work. Heck, even rather accurate Speed maps are produced.

Given the importance of racing for Hong Kong as the HKJC is the largest taxpayer there, this makes perfect sense, of course: if you want punters to come racing and gambling you need to provide an enticing product that people can believe in due to its transparent nature.

Granted there are only two tracks in Hong Kong, a small horse population and fewer variables. That makes it a lot easier to track all these things. It’s unrealistic to copy everything Hong Kong does and bring it over to the UK or Ireland. Still, more can be done and lessons can be learned from Hong Kong if racing over here wants to appeal to new and younger generations.

People these days are much more familiar with looking at- and using data. Many of us do it for work in some form or another. Not only for work, though. In a betting environment think about sports like football, hockey, basketball and so on that offer tons of data – from simple to “advanced stats”. Often available for free, easily accessible. Quite like it’s the case in Hong Kong for their racing product.

For UK and Irish racing data is expensive to get hands on (Flatstats, Proform….) and racing media tends to speak in plain and banal language anyway, as if the general punter would be too stupid to understand anything that goes beyond the numbers associated with naked form.

Baby steps are being made, though. Sectionals and stride data start to become more readily available for certain tracks. This really provides great insights into how races are run and why horses finished a certain way. This has to become a universal thing, though. It’s 2020 not 1985.

Newcastle Eye-Catcher

Ghadbbaan – Race 1 – 7th place: One could easily overlook this well beaten 4-year-old gelding. However this was a fairly decent seasonal reappearance, given he was drawn in gate one, which can be a negative for horses who already have starting issues. So it was no surprise to Ghadbbaan walking out of the gate. Hoe was then firmly driven forward to chase the lead.

He surly did much more than ideal in those early stages of the race and tired over two furlongs out to finish side by side with the pre-race favourite. That’s not the whole story, though.

He switched yards over the winter and was gelded, after two low-key efforts as a juvenile. He didn’t fulfill the hopes connections once had when in care of Michael Stoute.

However, Ghadbbaan is quite nicely bred, although clearly looks to have a future beyond a mile. He is a full-brother to smart 103 rated Listed 1m 2f winner Sound Of Cannons out of a Listed placed- and 1m2f winning mare  and by French Derby winner Intello.

Today was only his first handicap start. A fair pipe opener. Once Ghadbbaan steps up in trip he should improve readily and be able to exploit his current 64 Official Rating.

Preview: 2017 Hong Kong Derby

Sunday morning 8.35 – it’s time for the 2017 renewal of the Hong Kong Derby. The winner will net a cool £1,1 million! Local horses are favoured to land the odds with a red hot favourite seemingly unbeatable – yet I do strongly fancy a fresh UK import.

The favourite: Odds-on and very well fancied – with some experts claiming he’s nearly unbeatable in the Derby – the exciting Rapper Dragon ticks plenty of the right boxes, indeed.

Still unbeaten this season and a winner of both the Classic Mile and the Classic Cup as part of the Four Year Old Classic Series, he created a big impression and build up a reputation of being incredibly versatile and owning a trademark turn of foot.

The form book says Rapper Dragon is probably hard to beat tomorrow, even more so as he has been allotted a perfect draw. But he is a very short price and has yet to prove his stamina over the 2.000 meter trip.

His sire Street Boss is not necessarily known for stamina so if there is at least a small home in Rapper Dragon’s chance then it must be this one. However that only has a real impact if the race is a strong run one, which we can’t be sure of.

Main Contenders: Nonetheless there is some fair opposition on hand to make life difficult for the favourite. Exciting Pakistan Star is a real crowd favourite. An honest, fast finishing son of Shamardal out of a 1m2f Listed race winning mare, he may improve for the step up in trip, but will need to have things fall right for him from a wide draw.

Eagle Way had a rough ride in the Classic Cup and might be better than the fourth place finish. Former UK based Booming Delight has excelled in Hong Kong since his move last summer. He won three on the trot lately. Ex-Australian Beauty Generation has a bit too find on recent form but could easily improve for the trip.

The one I do strongly fancy is another UK import, however, one who’s still a somewhat unknown quantity in Hong Kong: Gold Mount (ex-Primitivo). He was always ahead of the handicapper in Britain, winning impressively at Royal Ascot a strong Handicap.

He showed versatility during his time in Britain, given he won from 1 1/2m to 1m 4f on soft to good to firm ground and particularly in his last two starts at Sandown and Ascot he produced a nice turn of foot, though hanging badly in the closing stages.

Clearly a raw talent, he moved subsequently to Hong Kong where he was relatively unfancied on debut in a hot handicap over seemingly too short 1.600m. He was outpaced on the home turn an then got stuck in traffic, switched by Mosse to the inside rail, a move that cost momentum, but regained control quickly and thundered home in impressive style.

There is no doubt that he should come on leaps and bounds for the run and more improvement is expected for the step up to a more suitable trip like the Derby’s 2.000 meter.

He’s got a half decent draw but his running style means he may need a bit of in-running luck. Granted he gets a run through I’m hopeful he’s good enough to be thereabouts.

Longshot: Far below the pecking order but a horse not to underestimate is Helene Charisma at odds around 33’s – a huge price for a French Group 1 winner, though in three starts he hasn’t quite fired at Hong Kong yet. That is somehow explainable over trips too short and on unsuitable fast ground.

There are positives taken from his last start though, when upped to 2.000m for the first time in Hong Kong and only a lengths beaten in fifth by Booming Delight. He encountered an absolute nightmare run but still finished as well as he did.

The ground is likely not going to be all that fast as it was the last two times, that must be a positive. His wide draw may or may not be  negative, as he may encounter a less troubled passage actually, with the opportunity to come with a sweeping run on the outside to catch the leaders making his stamina in abundance count.

Selection:
10pts win – Gold Mount @ 11/1 Unibet
5pts win – Helene Charisma @ 33/1 Unibet

The best in the world…

A third Group 1 on the bounce for world class miler Able Friend! The six year old made light work of his rivals in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup at Sha Tin earlier today, despite encountering plenty of in-running trouble. That’s the signs of a true superstar!

Able Friend has been rated the second best horse in the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, which have been published last week. Currently rated one single pound below US top drawer Shared Belief, one could think that after this performance today, he may well jump right on top of the queue!

Racing’s Weekend Review

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Yep, it’s hard to believe, but it’s March again and Cheltenham is literally just around the corner! Next week were’ already discussing the big races, fallen favourites and hopefully some surprising & heart-warming stories. It’s a shame, I can’t make it this year. I broke my Cheltenham maiden tag last year, and it was absolutely amazing. Tuesday with club enclosure was the perfect race day. Top class racing action, big crowd but not that it felt uncomfortable, and some lovely warm spring sun shining down into this natural amphitheatre . It’ll be a shaky stream at work this time, and replays on TV afterwards (no need to cry for me – I’ll be going to the Grand National instead!).

VIEW: Our Photo Gallery – Cheltenham Festival 2014

The formerly in Ireland trained Designs On Rome has rapidly become one of the best middle distance horses in the world. Since he left Pat Flynn’s yard to start a new career in Hong Kong, he has nothing but improved. Now a three time Group 1 winner in overseas, he’ll be one of the favourites for the Sheema Classic on Meydan’s World Cup night. And rightly so. He won the prestigious Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup in very taking style on Sunday morning UK time. Having it all to do turning for home, he had come from the widest travelling welloff the pace for most parts of the race, but was simply too good for his rivals, mainly old foe Military Attack.

It was Gauteng Guineas day at Turffontein, South Africa, on Saturday. You may have seen my previews for both the fillies’ and boys’ races. They promised allot and didn’t disappoint, though it was slightly surprising to see both races won by very convincing winners – that says it wasn’t the usual bunched up finished! Siren’s Call took the Fillies Guineas in style of a really good horse. She’s a hardly filly with the touch of class. Harry’s Son overcame all troubles in preparation to the big race and proved far too good for the opposition in the boys’s Guineas. Last seasons champion two year old will now try to go on to win the Triple Crown before he’ll be on the move to Dubai for next years Carnival.

Gauteng Guineas – Winner: Harry’s Son:

Gateng Fillies Guineas – Winner: Siren’s Call:

It’s not news to readers of this blog that I‘m a big fan of Bob Baffert’s colt Dortmund – who is my pick for the Kentucky Derby. It was pleasing, though also kind of odd to a certain extent,to hear Baffert talking about Dortmund, following a workout at Santa Anita: “His last two works have really been his best works. I think the light finally went on. I think he’s finally figuring out how he’s supposed to do it.” Mind you Baffert is talking about a Grade 1 winner, who is currently trading as the co-favourite for the Derby. One has to wonder, if Dortmund has been able to win all these races before without ‘the light on’, how much more improvement could potentially come from this extremely good looking colt?!

Eye-Catcher of the Weekend

Sundays card at Geyville, South Africa, was largely low grade stuff. With the exception of a fair Graduation plate, which saw 2013 champion two year old Kochka back on track for his second run after a long injury related lay-off. The four year old colt ran on well on his comeback run and has clearly grown physically into a brute of a horse. He was the clear favourite today to beat rivals below his natural class and for that reason he was our banker of the day. As expected, Kochka finished the job, even though it was slightly more thrilling than I as a punter would have like it. Which was very much the down to the very confident and light ride the big colt was given. Kochka itself is a horse to keep in mind when he steps up in trip again. 1.200m is too short against better opposition, but he is clearly back and should be a force over a mile.

My eye-catcher of the week ran in the very same race. The three year old Saratoga Dancer Saratoga Dancer, officially rated a low 78 rated, finished a fine third, less than two lengths beaten by Kochka, who is 105 rated, and runner-up Nineteen Fourteen who is a fair measure stick at 88 and clearly ran to form. Saratoga Dancer only received 3.5kg and 0.5kg respectivelly by these much higher rated individuals, yet he was able to finish so close. He is still lightly raced, was back from a break today and probably needs further. Not to mention that he got an odd ride, was never touched and still finished as close as he did. Let’s see what the handicapper does next But I suspect that Saratoga Dancer, once up in trip again, will be a big runner regardless of where he pops up next. .