Hong Kong Spot Plays: Moreira poised for big night at Happy Valley

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 13th, 2020

Jockey Joao Moreira has been on fire in Hong Kong this season. With 56 wins from 290 rides, Moreira is leading all local riders by wins, winning percentage (19%), and purse money earned.

Moreira has a full slate of live mounts lined up for the Wednesday, Jan. 15 card at Happy Valley, so a multi-win night should be on the horizon. We’ll focus on two of his mounts for this week’s spot plays.

Race 3: Lambeth Handicap (Class 4, 6:45 a.m. ET)

The field for this 1,000-meter turf sprint isn’t the toughest, so we’ll favor the chances of the first-time starter #5 Fire Ball. Conditioned by Dennis Yip, Fire Ball has shown significant promise in four barrier trials, most notably winning a 1,000-meter trial here at Happy Valley on Dec. 28. On that occasion, Fire Ball broke quickly and led all the way to record a respectable time of :58.52, even while never asked for his best run.

Moreira was in the saddle for Fire Ball’s winning trial and he’ll keep the mount for Wednesday’s race, stamping this New Zealand-bred 3-year-old as the horse to beat.

Wagering strategy

Let’s bet Fire Ball to win and key him in the quinella with #9 Winning Ways and #12 Happy Good Guys, a couple of capable Class 4 competitors with a fondness for sprinting 1,000 meters:

$26 to Win on #5 Fire Ball
$6.50 Quinella: 5 with 9,12 ($13)

Race 8: Connaught Handicap (Class 3, 9:15 a.m. ET)

The lightly-raced #6 Flying Genius enters this 1,000-meter dash in peak form. After finishing third in his debut in November, Flying Genius rattled off back-to-back Class 4 victories at Happy Valley, flashing speed on both occasions to record comfortable victories in solid times.

The question now is whether Flying Genius can handle the jump into Class 3 company. He’ll face a formidable rival in #8 Hong Kong Win, who has been competing respectably against this class level over the straight course at Sha Tin. Hong Kong Win has never finished out of the top three at Happy Valley, where 1,000-meter races are conducted around a turn, and the return to this configuration could make him especially dangerous. He’ll also regain the services of Moreira for the first time since winning a Class 4 handicap at Happy Valley on Oct. 10.

#3 Harmony and Rich, third in his Hong Kong debut over this class, course, and distance, is fast enough to contend on paper. #1 Heart Conquered can also be a threat while stepping down from a promising debut in a Class 2 handicap on Jan. 1.

Wagering strategy

Let’s key Hong Kong Win in the trifecta while emphasizing Flying Genius, Harmony and Rich, and Heart Conquered in the remaining slots:

$1.30 Trifecta: 8 with 1,2,3,5,6 with 1,2,3,5,6 ($26)
$1.30 Trifecta: 1,3,6 with 8 with 1,2,3,5,6 ($15.60)

Good luck!