IT IS safe to say results at Happy Valley haven’t gone according to plan since the season started in September.
Professional bettors and gambling-mad locals have suffered a torrid time, with short-priced favourites getting turned over on a regular basis and long-shots lighting up the Tote win dividend on numerous occasions.
Take last Wednesday for example – four short-priced favourites, including two odds-on shots, bit the dust, with only one market leader at 3/1 offering a brief respite.
Reigning champion jockey Zac Purton suffered a nightmare, tasting defeat on four market leaders and twice suffering defeats by the narrowest of margins.
The Hong Kong betting public are renowned for showing their displeasure if any jockey is costing them money and rumour has it the ‘Zac-Man’ left the inner-city track with a blanket over his head.
If that wasn’t bad enough, racing at the Valley this afternoon takes place on the infamous ‘C+3’ track.
The width of the course only measures a fraction over 18 metres, which is just enough room to get a dozen starting stalls across the track.
It is imperative before placing your bets that you find horses that have the early speed to be up with the pace from the off, allowing them to bag the inside rail.
The last time racing took place on this course in September, six of the eight winners were in the first three after 400m.
It’s easy to understand why. Imagine a dozen horses weighing half-a-ton each, thundering down a narrow home stretch, with jockeys navigating from behind, trying to find a trouble-free passage. They are going to need plenty of luck.
Jockey Silvestre de Sousa broke a 31-run losing streak when winning on Eagle Way at Sha Tin on Sunday and will be looking for further success when he climbs aboard the Michael Chang-trained THE JOY OF GIVING in the opener at 11.15am over 1m1f.
The Irish-bred four-year-old has been knocking on the door in recent attempts, notably when just touched off in a photo over the course and distance back in October.
With an inside draw mapping him to be closer to the early pace from the off, he is capable of using his impressive finishing kick to good effect down the home stretch.
Remembering a fast starter who can get over to the rails is a recipe for success, it’s hard to overlook the chances of ROMAN ODYSSEY, who lines up in the six furlong dash at 12.50pm.
This son of Holy Roman Emperor couldn’t cope with the progressive Blitzing in the closing stages over track and trip last month, but matched Tony Cruz’s speedster for pace for most of the race.
This time he is capable of dictating the tempo from the off, and with Purton aboard, is likely to skip away from his rivals turning into the straight and then hold off any late challengers.
Purton, who will be hoping to get his massive fan-club back on-side after last week’s debacle, looks set for another winner when he partners the David Hall-trained MAGIC SUCCESS in the 1.50pm over the extended mile.
A recent encouraging trial over six furlongs at Sha Tin suggests he will be spot-on for this contest.
The Joy of Giving 11.15am Happy Valley
Roman Odyssey 12.50pm Happy Valley
Magic Success 1.50pm Happy Valley