Hong Kong Spot Plays: A banner finish to the season

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TwinSpires Staff

July 13th, 2019

by J. Keeler Johnson It’s been a fun run with plenty of highlights along the way, but the 2018-19 racing season in Hong Kong wraps up on Sunday, July 14, with an 11-race card at Sha Tin. Post time for the first race of the day is 12:30 a.m. (ET), so if you want to join in on the action, you might want to place your wagers on Saturday night. As for me? I’ll try to end the season on a winning note with two final spot plays: Race 8: The Sha Tin Mile Trophy (Class 1) A deep field of high-class runners has assembled for this 1,600-meter Class 1 handicap, including many runners with experience in group events under their belts. But despite the quality of the field, I believe Citron Spirit (#1) is a possible standout. The recent form of this seven-year-old gelding is strong. Three starts back, he rallied to victory in a Class 1 handicap going 1,800 meters at Happy Valley, sprinting the final 400 meters in :23. Then Citron Spirit stepped up into Group 3 company at Sha Tin and came running late to finish fifth in the 1,600-meter Lion Rock Trophy (G3) and third in the 1,800-meter Premier Plate (G3). I was particularly impressed by Citron Spirit’s performance in the Premier Plate. Facing a strong field, Citron Spirit was compromised by a modest early pace, but still managed to rally and finish third by 1 1/4 lengths against the Group 1-placed Rise High and Group 1 winner Seasons Bloom. Notably, Citron Spirit flew home the final 400 meters in :21.76, an excellent fraction. The drop to Class 1 company should help Citron Spirit’s chances, and although he’ll carry top weight of 130 pounds, he’ll be conceding just eight pounds or less to the majority of his rivals. Citron Spirit appears to have found the perfect spot to end his season on a winning note. $10.40 to win on #1 Citron Spirit $1.30 trifecta: 1 with 2, 4, 5, 10 with 2, 4, 5, 10 ($15.6) Race 11: The Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy (Class 2) The finale of the Hong Kong racing season is a 1,400-meter Class 2 handicap on the turf course, which appears to be a perfect spot for Jolly Banner (#1). Winner of the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (G3) back in January, Jolly Banner has spent the majority of his career competing in Class 1 handicaps and group events, but following a few defeats against tougher company, his rating has slipped enough to allow him entry into this Class 2 handicap. Jolly Banner should have every chance to take advantage of this opportunity. The distance is perfect – five of his six career victories have come going 1,400 meters at Sha Tin – and trainer Ricky Yiu has enlisted the services of young jockey Alfred Chan to ride Jolly Banner. This is significant, because even though Chan is an experienced rider with a 100 victories in New Zealand and Australia, he’s ridden just eight winners in Hong Kong, which means his mounts benefit from carrying 10 pounds less than their assigned impost. As a result, Jolly Banner will tote just 123 pounds on Sunday, rather than his assigned 133 pounds. So in essence, Jolly Banner is a group winner getting a weight break while slipping into a Class 2 handicap over his favorite course and distance. Surely this is a winning combination! Let’s bet Jolly Banner to win and play him in the Omni/Singer with Thanks Forever (#6), a promising sprinter endeavoring to stretch out in distance with Hong Kong’s leading jockey Zac Purton in the saddle: $10.40 to win on #1 Jolly Banner $5.20 Omni/Swinger: 1, 6 Good luck!