Hong Kong Spot Plays: An Unusual Talent

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TwinSpires Staff

July 1st, 2019

by J. Keeler Johnson There's plenty to look forward to on Wednesday when racing in Hong Kong shifts back to Happy Valley for an eight-race card. For starters, first post time is 7:15 a.m. (EDT), so you can watch the action over breakfast rather than staying up through all hours of the night. Secondly, the promising Not Usual Talent is running in the finale, so from a sporting perspective it will be fun to see what he can accomplish. Let's come up with a couple of spot plays to bookend the card: Race 1: Yung Shue O Handicap (Class 5) Trainer Peter Ho Leung appears to hold a strong hand in this 1,000-meter sprint with #3 Great Son and #8 Whistle Up. The former has scored two recent wins at Happy Valley (including one over this distance) and is cutting back to his preferred trip after failing to stretch his speed over 1,400 meters at Sha Tin. Meanwhile, Whistle Up has yet to win a race, but he wasn't badly beaten by Great Son in the latter's victory over 1,000 meters, and he recently placed third behind the capable Very Sweet Orange at this class and distance level. At first glance, Great Son would be an easy choice to defeat Whistle Up, but take note, when they met last time Whistle Up was carrying 121 pounds and conceding two pounds to Great Son. Whistle Up will again carry 121 pounds on Wednesday, but Great Son's assignment has been upped to 132 pounds, a hefty shift that could give the advantage to Whistle Up. It also doesn't hurt that Whistle Up will have Hong Kong's leading jockey Zac Purton in the saddle. Let's bet Whistle Up to win and play him in the Omni/Swinger with Great Son: $10.40 to win on #8 Whistle Up $10.40 Omni/Swinger: 3,8 Race 8: Hoi Ha Handicap (Class 2) #8 Not Usual Talent certainly demonstrated a "not usual" burst of finishing speed in a Class 2 handicap going 1,600 meters at Sha Tin last month. Reserved in ninth place early on, Not Usual Talent sprinted the final two 400-meter sectionals in :23.47 and :22.64 to roar past his rivals and win easily by 2 1/2 lengths. His final time of 1:32.96 was blazing—it established a course record for the class level and fell just 0.32 short of the overall course record held by superstar miler Beauty Generation. For another comparison, the typical final time for a 1,600-meter Class 2 handicap at Sha Tin is just 1:34.45, with finishing fractions of :23.60 and :22.95. It's safe to say Not Usual Talent ran out of his skin, and since he endured troubled trips in his previous two runs, it's also possible this stellar performance wasn't a fluke. Rather than get heavily involved in the exotics—this looks like a competitive race overall—let's just bet Not Usual Talent to win and hope he replicates his last performance. $20.80 to win on #8 Not Usual Talent Good luck!   Happy Valley Racecourse (c) Vance Hanson