Hong Kong Preview: A Happy Valley for Fa Fa
Happy Valley specialist #7 Fa Fa can get back into winning form in the Class 2 Tokyo Handicap Nov. 16.
The New Zealand-bred five-year-old has started 16 times in Hong Kong, and his preference for the Happy Valley over Sha Tin couldn’t be clearer.
In six starts at Sha Tin — admittedly with one on dirt and another three in the high-class Hong Kong Four-Year-Old series — he couldn’t finish closer than sixth place. But take him to Happy Valley and he’s a different animal, racing 10 times at the tight city circuit for six wins — five of them consecutive — and he never finished further back than fifth.
So far this season he’s started twice, finishing third to #1 Telecom Fighters Sept. 21, and fourth to Berlin Tango Oct. 12. With regular pilot Vincent Ho aboard and the favored No. 1 draw, he should go close.
He faces a good Class 2 field over 1,650-meters (about one mile, 40 yards), though a number of the in-form runners have wide draws to contend with, most notably Telecom Fighters, #5 Everyone’s Delight, and #6 Savaquin.
Telecom Fighters won first-up after getting away with slow early fractions in his seasonal reappearance. He’s gone up five pounds in the ratings as a result and will find it more difficult from barrier 11 and with a full 12-horse field, but he can’t be ignored.
Everyone’s Delight only just failed to hold out Berlin Tango in the race in which Fa Fa finished fourth Oct. 12. However, gate 12 could be a problem. Savaquin was third in that race, but may handle the draw better than the other pair given that he naturally gets back and won’t burn too much gas at the start.
#2 The Irishman isn’t as badly off at the gate, drawing barrier seven. He produced a devastating finish from well back to win at Sha Tin Oct. 23, but he’s up six pounds for that effort and is racing for the first time at Happy Valley, which can trip some horses up.
The biggest danger to Fa Fa could well be #8 Packing Award. He’s having his first start for the season and wasn’t asked for much at his two trial races this campaign, but he has won four of his eight starts at Happy Valley and has the benefit of gate four.