Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hong Kong International Races Selections

Race 1: Beauty Flame
Start off the day with a six horse field where Beauty Flame looks lone speed unless someone here runs differently than their typical style. Perhaps Wonderful Moments can press the leader early, but he barely won when favored last time out and he'll have to carry four more pounds as a result of that performance in what will be his first start of the season. Beauty Flame, on the other hand, hasn't finished worse than second in four starts this season and carries 128 here, just as he did in his most recent win. Rewarding Hero is much better in the weights compared to Beauty Flame this time around and should go close, but the small field and likely slow early pace should hinder his chances. 
Play: Beauty Flame to win

Race 4: Khaya
Flintshire will be the heavy favorite and deservedly so following his runner-up finishes in both the Arc and the Breeders' Cup Turf. And while this field perhaps isn't up to the level of either of those, Flintshire always seems to be in a winning position and yet far he far too often finds one too good. He figures to get a nice run from barrier four, however, and will be tough to beat. I'm going to take him on here though with Khaya, who typically runs over shorter but hasn't disgraced himself when asked to go further. In fact, in races of 2000m or further, he has a record of 3: 0-2-1. He ran well to finish second last time home, beating out the well regarded Divine Calling, and looking every bit like he wanted further than the 1600m he got there. Despite being drawn wide, he should be able to get over and settle in behind leaders Bubble Chic and Curren Mirotic just fine and from there he looks to potentially get the run of the race. Willie Cazals looked to have a perfect prep last start in what's been a fine season thus far. He's twice ran at 2400m and finished second both times. If he can get any sort of luck from the gate, Empoli has the talent and tactical speed necessary to pick up a piece. 
Play: Khaya to win/show & trifecta: 8,10 / 1,8,10 / 1,4,8,10

Race 5: Sterling City
Pace makes the race will ring true here as we have one confirmed frontrunner in Buffering, who is plenty talented and could steal it if he's let go on an uncontested lead. We'll figure someone goes with him out front, however, and the most likely candidate appears to be Spalato, who has raced forwardly before and drew awkwardly in gate 11. If the lead is contested between those two, this field could get strung out rather quickly, which could do a disservice to likely backmarkers Sole Power and Snow Dragon, who have sharp turns of foot but could very well be found with too much to do. This race shape would instead favor a runner who is midpack to forwardly placed, but off the speed. For that reason, I'll side with Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Sterling City, who traveled mighty well in his most recent run, which was a messy race altogether. The other main contenders look to be Aerovelocity and Peniaphobia. Aerovelocity has done nothing wrong in his two runs this season and while he had all the luck in his first run, his luck appeared to have run out in his last start. He does seem to particularly love running along the rail, however, at I'm not sure he'll be able to get over quite that far here. Peniaphobia was impressive when winning while wide throughout last time and at only three-years-old, he looks to be a horse who's on to bigger and better things. He has nice tactical speed, but appears to be much better suited to running well off the pace. Expect him to be rolling home late. 
Play: Sterling City to win & trifecta: 4 / 8,9 / 1,3,5,7,8,9

Race 7: Glorious Days
I'm as big an Able Friend as any and while he looms large here as the one to beat, he'll be a ridiculous price and is worth a small play against given his wide draw. The only horse I could really see having any chance of beating him is last year's winner Glorious Days, who will once again attempt to win his race in his seasonal reappearance. He ran a nicer than it appears on paper sixth behind Just A Way at Tokyo Racecourse back in August and he impressed in a recent barrier trial, so by the looks of it, all systems are go for the defending champ. That being said, Able Friend will be mighty tough and will probably have to find some sort of trouble to lose here, but having drawn widest of them all, he'll likely have to drop back near the rear, which makes a troubled trip more of a possibility. 
Play: Glorious Days to win

Race 8: Designs on Rome
Drawn ideally in the third stall, Hong Kong's Horse of the Year, Designs on Rome looks on tap to get his first win of the season. He ran well under top weight in his first start of the year, before struggling when seemingly pace compromised in his second start. It was in his most recent start that he appeared to perhaps struggled a touch, but with that said, he still finished only one and a half lengths back of the winner. Add to that he had a fantastic recent work in which he finished the final 200m in a speedy 10.9 seconds, per the South China Morning Post, and this son of Holy Roman Emporer who routinely looks well in the mornings appears especially primed for this spot. On paper, his biggest competitor looks to be fellow HK runner Military Attack, but his recent work in company with Born to Win was far from his typical standard and makes me question whether he's peaked too soon. Japanese runner Archimedes intrigues following a runner-up finish behind Just A Way in the G2 Nakayama Kinen last March. He's yet to run since then, which indicates to me that there have been plans to run here for some time and he's made a nice impression when seen ridden quietly in recent local works. 
Play: quinella: 2-9

Race 9: Star Track
This four-year-old son of Starcraft steps up to 1400m for the first time after twice impressing over 1200m, particularly last time out when he rocketed away from the field with 150m to go, looking every bit like he'd be suited by further. Yes, he does pile on seven pounds as a result of that win, but Purton back aboard seems a positive sign and he figures to get a contested pace out front, which would suit his come from behind running style to a tee. It's tough to split between Star Track and Packing Pins at this stage, but we'll side with what should be the better price on the day. 
Play: Star Track to win

Race 10: Selkirk Star
This John Moore trainee showed some real grit when getting the win in his most recent run, which was his first time being stepped up to 1600m. He carried 130 lbs in that Class 3 affair and will only have to carry 116, the least he's carried since his debut, now that he's running in Class 2 company. He's not drawn well, but will likely drop out the back anyway given his typical running style. The pace looks like it could be slow enough that we'll end up with a bunched up field throughout, and in that case, his fantastic closing kick should come in very handy. 
Play: Selkirk Star to win/show

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