The Hong Kong racing season kicks off with its opening meeting at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, 14 September. Sha Tin Racecourse will open for admission at 11:00 am on Sunday 14 September. There will be 10 races on the card, with the first starting at 1:00 pm (7am local time).
There will be an opening ceremony starting in the Parade Ring at 12:00 noon, starting with the traditional eye-dotting of the ceremonial lions, then a 130-strong lion dance to mark the Club’s 130th Anniversary season, followed by the gong-striking ceremony performed by HKSAR Chief Secretary for Administration, The Hon Mrs Carrie Lam.
Mrs Lam will also be on hand to present the trophy for the day’s feature, the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup over 1200m.
Douglas Whyte may have lost his title last season after 13 straight years at the top, but he still ended 2013/14 with more stakes money in the bank than any other rider after bagging a host of major features. Whyte, who has notched at least one win at five of the last eight opening day fixtures, looks to Divine Ten (121lbs) to snare his first success in the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup since Enthused in 2008.
Me Tsui’s charge makes his seasonal bow alongside 10 other smart sprinters, and heads into the Class 1 contest off the back of a 1200m all-weather barrier trial on 2 September. Whyte believes that pipe-opener will have brought him on.
“I thought his trial was ok, I didn’t think he set the world alight,” said the South African. “He was still pretty heavy, so I think he is going to benefit from the trial and strip fitter.”
Divine Ten is aiming for his sixth win from only eight Hong Kong starts, and his first at the distance. His only previous attempt at 1200m came on his final outing of last term and saw the Holy Roman Emperor five-year-old fail by a short-head in a tight finish to the HKG3 Sha Tin Vase (Handicap).
With plenty of speed drawn to his inside, Whyte is circumspect about what Sunday may bring: “Gate seven is a bit of a concern,” he said. “It’s not going to be straightforward, he’ll have his work cut out but the horse is healthy so let’s see what happens. He’s done nothing wrong and he indicated last time that the six furlongs is going to suit him. He’s developed into a nice horse, mentally, so while he would have to take a significant step forward to put himself in the top category of sprinters, the weekend will tell us a lot.”
The John Size-trained Tour De Force (113lbs) won three times at the course and distance last year as he rose from a mark of 82 to his current rating of 103. “After I won on him in March he came out and won again, and then he ran two good races from bad draws,” said Sunday’s jockey, Karis Teetan. “He’s come back fresh, the draw’s (6) not bad this time, and off a light weight I think he will put up a good performance. I’m sure he’s got some more improvement in him. After I rode him last season I knew he would do well and improve and I don’t think he’s stopped progressing. Hopefully he can carry on improving for a little while yet.”
Champion Trainer Caspar Fownes saddles the 123-rated top-weight Helene Spirit (133lbs), while Champion Jockey Zac Purton is aboard Bullish Friend (120lbs), one of four runners from the Tony Cruz stable alongside the exciting three-year-old Peniaphobia (113lbs) and the old-timers El Zonda (113lbs) and Best Eleven (113lbs).
Last season’s G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) hero Charles The Great (131lbs) represents the John Moore stable, while the smart types Golden Harvest (114lbs), Lord Sinclair (113lbs) and Smart Volatility (113lbs) complete the line-up