Hong Kong: a good morning at Sha Tin and clean clothes for Happy Valley

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

December 7th, 2016

HONG KONG - The pleasant commute from central Hong Kong to Sha Tin Racecourse in the New Territories for Wednesday morning's HKIR trackwork was leisurely compared to the trackwork itself, which seemed, to this newbie, to come fast and furious and was all but completed within an hour.

The media viewing area, between the turf course and the all-weather track, was a perfect vantage point. However, spend too long watching what was going on one of the tracks and you could easily have missed what was happening a few steps away on the other. For me, properly identifying the horses (even with a cheat sheet) wasn't clear-cut, so I wasn't able to catch all the ones I was hoping to on photo or video.

Nonetheless, there were several things of note from this view. Defending Vase winner Highland Reel made a solid impression, while stablemate Cougar Mountain (Mile) got a little warm during the latter part of his stay on the track.

The Japanese contingent, led by Horse of the Year Maurice (Cup) and defending Cup winner A Shin Hikari, were of great interest to all, with A Shin Hikari displaying a few antics on the all-weather. Australian Sprint contender Takedown, who reportedly tips the scales at more than 1,300 pounds, is certainly all that and then some.

The Thursday trackwork is expected to be the busiest of the week, and hopefully I'll be able to navigate between goings-on a little more efficiently. That will be followed by the barrier draw for the four HKIR races.

On a lighter note, I was greatly relieved that my luggage was waiting at the media hotel upon my return from Sha Tin. Although prepared to be severely underdressed for Wednesday night's International Jockeys Challenge at Happy Valley (not so much for later in the week if it had totally disappeared), I'm happy to report I'll at least look and feel respectable.

Much thanks again to Pat Cummings and Andrew Hawkins of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, as well as the North American-media brigade on hand for the HKIR, for their kind words of encouragement and understanding through what Macmillan may have described as some little local difficulties in getting to Hong Kong and the first 18 hours on arrival. I'm now mentally all there to enjoy the experience.

I gave out some general opinions on the four Jockey Challenge races at Happy Valley in my previous post, and will monitor the tote board this evening and let everyone know how I'll be playing @VPHanson. I'll also be posting photos and videos of scenes from Happy Valley throughout the course of the card @TwinSpires.

For you early birds in the east and night owls out west, first post at Happy Valley is 5:30 a.m. (EST) and 2:30 a.m. (PST), with the first of four Jockey Challenge races at 7:10 (EST) and 4:10 (PST). If you prefer, bet early at