Graham Cunningham: on-form Badel full of confidence after Sha Tin treble
With just over three weeks to go until Hong Kong's flagship event of the year, most of the best horses in town will be seeking to enhance their Hong Kong International Races credentials at Sha Tin this Sunday. However, before then there is a nine-race Wednesday programme at Happy Valley. Joao Moreira is still flying high, now 11 clear of Zac Purton and Karis Teetan, and the big three will all be in the spotlight for a card that gets under way at 10.45 on Sky Sports Racing.
Alexis Badel spent the first eight months of 2020 toiling on the French circuit for 33 winners worth €830,000 in prize-money. Ten weeks into his first full HK season, the popular 30-year-old has 14 winners worth almost £2m after a weekend Sha Tin treble that took him to fifth in the table.
Badel completed his treble when the hulking Ping Hai Bravo wore down much-touted Joyful Fortune and Badel's positive thinking may have played a part.
“What I have learned in Hong Kong is that nothing is predictable," he said. "Anything can happen, so you just need to believe in yourself."
Purton ban puts Moreira on pole
Moreira continued his hot streak with a Saturday double but champion jockey Purton drew a blank – his fifth in the last ten meetings – and had salt rubbed in the wound by way of a careless riding ban that will keep him out for the first two meetings of December.
Moreira has ridden 12 winners for Caspar Fownes this season and the pair combine again on Wednesday with Green Luck in the 2.15. Meanwhile, Purton has not ridden for the table-topping Fownes since September 23. If that trend continues, the Aussie is going to find it incredibly difficult to land a fourth consecutive title.
Chau still a big asset despite reduced claim
An apprentice with a 10lb claim who can get horses to the front early provides a valuable punting edge in HK. But one with a 7lb claim who can also ride from the back is every bit as valuable and Jerry Chau celebrated his first day without the maximum allowance in style by producing Casimiro with a relentless charge from last to first on Saturday.
Still only 20, Chau has seven more chances to shine at Happy Valley on Wednesday including on Stanley Park in the finale at 2.50. This powerful chestnut – one of the heaviest horses in Hong Kong at 1346lb – made full use of Chau's claim with a bold front-running win here three weeks ago and is drawn to attack again from the inside gate.
Inside favoured with rail out wide
Betting on HK's tricky handicaps is seldom as easy as 1-2-3 but there's a persuasive case for noting those inside gates over 1,200 metres and 1,650m at the Valley on this week's C Course. Low numbers have done very well indeed with the rail out in its second widest position at the city track, with stalls 1-3 supplying 30 of the last 70 winners over 1,200m and 25 of the last 54 over the extended mile.
Bets can be placed into HK pools with the Tote, Coral and Ladbrokes. The first race at Happy Valley on Wednesday is at 10.45am