Fascinating Chinese New Year Cup kicks off the Year of the Snake
Hong Kong’s horseracing fans will descend on Sha Tin Racecourse in their enthusiastic legions for the hugely-popular Chinese New Year race meeting on Tuesday 12 February, when the 11-race card’s feature race is the Class 1 Chinese New Year Cup (Handicap).
The 1400m contest has drawn a competitive field of top rank handicappers seeking a triumphant start to the Year of the Snake, including the exciting John Moore-trained Flash Knight (125lbs) who went into many notebooks after a stunning run in defeat last time.
Most eyes were on Akeed Mofeed’s unlucky effort when that colt was third to Fulfil A Wish in the Class 2 Beas River Handicap over the course and distance on 12 January, but just a neck behind the much vaunted HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby hope was the equally unfortunate Flash Knight. The deep-closing five-year-old’s progress was stalled for a full 75m in the home stretch as daylight failed to break for the luckless galloper, yet he still ran the fastest final sectional, Flash Knight’s 22.40s for the last 400m being 0.54s faster than Akeed Mofeed’s.
Douglas Whyte takes the ride on Flash Knight, who has drawn gate two as he bids for a second course and distance win in three starts, the champion jockey having partnered him in a recent gallop. The Moore stable is also represented by the smart Majestic Falcon (123lbs), a course and distance HKG3 winner who ran home strongly when seventh to Real Specialist last time in a Class 1 on 9 December.
The Moore pair faces stiff competition with Paul O’Sullivan running New Vision (126lbs), fifth in the Flash Knight race last time and 2lbs better off with that Moore runner for a head, while the in-form Dennis Yip relies on Fat Choy Oohlala (125lbs) who has drawn wide in 12.
“Fat Choy Oohlala’s still in good form but he’s an older horse and he hasn’t won for a while,” said Yip of the six-year-old who, despite failing to win since May 2011, is a consistent Class 1 performer.
“I’m happy with the way he’s been going. Last time he got a good draw so he ran very well when third to Rich Tapestry – the time was very fast and he wants that solid tempo. If he had drawn the inside I’d have been confident.”
Tony Cruz saddles a trio of candidates with the former champion miler Beauty Flash jointly heading the weights on 127lbs from the three gate. The seven-year-old is now down to a mark of 101, his lowest Hong Kong rating since October 2009, and has shown a couple of times this term that he retains flashes of ability.
Cruz’s other runners are the recent Happy Valley Class 2 1200m winner Good Words (118lbs), stepping up to 1400m for the first time, and November’s course and distance winner Penglai Xianzi (126lbs) who was a place behind Fat Choy Oohlala last time.
The Me Tsui-trained Keen Marie (121lbs) has a couple of big placed runs under his belt this season in Class 1 races over the course and distance and will benefit from Vincent Ho claiming a further 3lbs, while the Caspar Fownes-trained Fair Trade (127lbs) is a horse that has been highly-tried.
The Richard Gibson-trained Gift Is Gift (116lbs) is a five-time winner at 1200m and is having his first start since September, while the remaining runners are the Derek Cruz-trained Fun Rider (122lbs), Amigo (113lbs) from the Michael Chang stable, the Tony Millard-trained Talley Close (118lbs) and Voile Rouge (127lbs). The last-named, a two-time course and distance winner for trainer John Size, will be ridden by 7lbs claimer Alvin Ng who was born in the Year of the Snake, as was New Vision’s rider, Tye Angland.