Hong Kong Spot Plays: Veterans vs. newcomers at Happy Valley

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 9th, 2019

After the excitement of the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin last weekend, the Wednesday, December 11 card at Happy Valley might seem a bit dull by comparison.

But make no mistake, the races are just as competitive, if not quite as classy. There are plenty of opportunities for clever bettors to make significant wagering scores, so we’ll take a couple of shots with quinellas and trifectas for this week’s spot plays.

Although the nine-race card gets underway at 5:45 a.m. (ET), we’ll focus our attention on the last two races of the day.

Race 8: Sand Martin Handicap (Class 3)

Highweight #1 Gentle Breeze broke slowly and raced wide when finishing sixth on November 27, a far cry from the pace-setting tactics he employed to win decisively over this course, class level, and 1,000-meter distance three weeks prior. When he breaks alertly, Gentle Breeze is a sprinter to reckon with (he actually owns the 1,000-meter course record at Happy Valley), and he should save more ground while breaking from post 3 on Wednesday.

#4 Special Stars, who took a big step forward to upset Gentle Breeze on November 27, can be a threat once again for leading rider Joao Moreira and reigning champion trainer John Size. But the wildcard is #7 Harmony and Rich, who makes his Hong Kong debut after winning a pair of sprints in Australia.

A promising three-year-old, Harmony and Rich looked grand in a 1,000-meter barrier trial at Happy Valley on November 16, cruising home comfortably in front while never asked for anywhere near his best. Acclaimed jockey Zac Purton accepts the mount, making Harmony and Rich a serious threat to the established stars in Wednesday’s sprint.

$10.40 quinella: 1 with 4,7 ($20.8)
$1.30 trifecta box: 1,4,7 ($7.80)

Race 9: Sea Eagle Handicap (Class 3)

The rapidly-improving #3 Le Terroir looks like a good fit for this 1,200-meter turf sprint. With four wins and two seconds from his last six starts, Le Terroir has been on a tear this year and has improved his rating from 46 in April all the way up to 79 for Wednesday’s race.

There’s plenty to like about Le Terroir in addition to his obviously improving form. The four-year-old son of Star Witness has never missed the superfecta in nine starts at Happy Valley, all sprinting 1,200 meters, and his recent winning times have been slightly faster than standard for this class level. Just as significantly, he’s 2-for-2 with Moreira in the saddle, and Moreira will retain the mount on Wednesday.

Le Terroir is picking up weight off his last victory, but he’s handled every jump with aplomb so far and can take another step forward in his third start of the 2019-20 season. With his front-running speed, he’ll be prominent from the outset and should be able to clear most or all of his rivals even while breaking from post 10.

#5 Shining Ace is also on the rise and enters off a fast win over this course, class, and distance on November 20, making him a logical contender for trainer Size. But the greatest threat to Le Terroir might be #1 Cue the Music. Although he’s 0-for-3 so far in Hong Kong, Cue the Music has been running well against Class 2 company and placed at the Group 1 level in his native South Africa. With jockey Purton in the saddle, Cue the Music can challenge from just off the pace while stepping down the class ladder.

$20.80 quinella: 1,3
$13 quinella: 3,5
$3.90 trifecta: 3 with 1,5 with 1,5 ($7.80)

Good luck!