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Picture : Splendid Living is the one to beat in Race 5 at Happy Valley (Wednesday) (HKJC)

By Luke Middlebrook (Chief Racing Editor at iRace Media Pte Ltd)

Hong Kong racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night (13 September) for an 8-race fixture under the lights.

Progressive four-year-old DENFIELD is on track to win his way into Class 3 when he resumes in the Class 4 Handicap over 1200m.

The Danny Shum-trained sprinter raced seven times last season and it wasn’t until his final race of the season that he managed to break his duck and post a first career win. However, on four occasions, he drew no lower than gate 10, which didn’t help his chances around the tight city circuit.
Nonetheless, he was showing ability, and when things fell into place and he shed his maiden tag, it was a stylish win as he drew clear by 2.75 lengths.

DENFIELD looked well in his trial ahead of his return, doing his best work past the post as he was full of running. Striking what looks like another winnable Class 4 contest, he should be proving hard to hold out and continue Shum’s usual fast-start after he secured a three-timer on Sunday at Sha Tin.

Typical for Happy Valley, it’s an extremely competitive race-card, but trainer Ricky Yiu will be hoping in-form six-year-old SPLENDID LIVING can continue his winning streak from last season and aim for a hat-trick of victories when he returns to racing in the Class 3 Handicap over 1650m.

SPLENDID LIVING took some time to adjust to Hong Kong racing after arriving as a two-time winner out of four races in the UK. However, he thrived during his last season, securing three wins and four placings out of 12 starts. The gelding went back-to-back in his final two runs of the term, and he triumphed convincingly on both occasions, with a combined winning margin of 3.75 lengths.

SPLENDID LIVING might still have some points in hand and has found the perfect race on Wednesday where he stands out as the one to beat, with champion jockey Zac Purton in the saddle.

Race 4 – 2 LUCKY GOR
Since securing his first win four starts ago, he has encountered hard luck in his last three races. In his second and third starts following victory, he raced wide, yet still finished close up in the finish. However, in his most recent race, he failed as a well-supported $3.3 favourite due to blood in the trachea. He is a better horse than that, so consider giving him a chance to bounce back here.

Race 8 – 11 PACKING BOLE
He produced an impressive debut win in Class 4 in mid-June, which resulted in a significant 9-point ratings increase. In his second race, he was up into Class 3 and started as the $1.9 favourite. However, due to barrier 14, the jockey had to use him up early and he went too fast in the heavy rain. As a result, he weakened in the straight and finished well behind. With a better-timed ride, he should show improvement, and there’s potential for him to progress to a higher level this season.

He’s worth watching closely in his second race back in Class 4, especially after his eye-catching fifth-place finish in his last start. Despite starting from barrier 10 and easing back, he finished the race off strongly. Based on his winning form, he could either lead or position himself closer to the front, which would be ideal.

He has finally returned to Class 4 after failing to win in Class 3 throughout last season. Although he did run some good races at times, if he can deliver his trademark turn-of-foot, he could be one to watch in the concluding stages in a race such as this.

Luke Middlebrook’s Selections
R1. 2-3-5-8
R2. 2-8-3-5
R3. 1-4-3-2
R4. 3-2-4-1
R5. 4-2-9-1
R6. 2-5-4-6
R7. 5-6-2-4
R8. 1-11-7-4

Betting Strategy:
R3 #1 Win
R4 #2 Each-Way
R6 #2 Each-Way
R8 #1 Each-Way

Race-by-Race Previews

Race 1: Multimore drops down in grade and start following. From barrier 1 under Purton, he hard to look past. Theta Hedge looks overdue for a win and enters this race in good form after three placings. Trialed well for his return and gets his chance. Vamos will win in this grade very soon after going close since the class drop. Valhalla on the quick back up, drawn well and should gain a nice run in transit. Goodmanship has ability and is always dangerous in this grade. Should map a chance from barrier 2.

Race 2: D Star well supported last start and won accordingly. Bowman remains in the saddle and the four-year-old still could have some upside and win his way into Class 3. Nice Birdie recent runs have been encouraging and can run well as Purton regains the ride. Durham Star looks overdue for a win and enters this race in good form. He gets back and will be running on. Sturdy Ruby good performance when storming home for third place last start. He is nearing a win. Fortune President go on solid previous efforts where form looked okay.

Race 3: Denfield more than capable of winning again in this race after breaking through stylishly on his final start last season. Drawn well low in barrier 3, he should get the gun run just off the pace and be too strong late. Golden Luck go on the win two starts ago and give a chance to bounce back here. Lucky Archangel has ability and should not be underestimated in this grade (read “Track Spy” for more information). Snowalot nice horse who is a model of consistency and looks a chance in a race like this. Mega Bonus should lead and give a good sight from barrier 1 under Atzeni.

Race 4: Open race here. Happy Soul form is good and must be rated a solid chance given Shum’s horses go well early in the season. Lucky Gor has had no luck recently and give another chance here (read “Track Spy” for more information). Joy Coming well supported last start and won accordingly and has trialed well for his return. Should get the perfect run from barrier 3. Sight Hero looks a chance if you go on previous consistent form. Mixes his form being a “roarer”. Wind Speeder turned in a nice effort last run and barrier 2 should provide a perfect run.

Race 5: Splendid Living good effort last start leading all the way to win by a big margin, which was his second win in a row. The penny has dropped with him and he could still have more to offer. Hameron more than capable of winning again in this race and he appears to have more upside. Eighteen Palms has improved since the blinkers were added and he could be one to follow this season. California Voce resuming from a break and the betting market best will be the best guide. Loyal Baby has early speed and can always surprise with the right run.

Race 6: Wide-open contest here. Gorgeous Vitality drops down in grade and start following. On true form, he should be hard to hold out here (read “Track Spy” for more information). Sergeant Pepper well supported last start and won accordingly and should map ideally from gate 4. G One Excellent generally gets back in the running but dashes strongly home. He can map a chance from his low draw. Pachisi had genuine excuses last start and consider again. However, barrier 11 is awkward. Ace Talent recent runs have been encouraging and can run well.

Race 7: Magniac disappointing last start but worth giving another chance here as he trialed nicely for his return and gets barrier 3, from where he should map a winning chance. Heroic Master always finishes close up and must be rated a chance at this level. Purton takes the ride from barrier 1, so plenty of boxes are ticked. California Deeply resuming from a break and won a recent trial. He gets back but will be running on. Harmony N Blessed a fast beginner who can run well if he finds an easy lead. Explosive Witness is capable of running a fast final 400m sectional time.

Race 8: Plenty of speed engaged here, so the tempo of the race will prove vital to the outcome. Reward Smile nice three-year-old who showed a stack of ability last term and looks headed higher. Packing Bole disappointing last start but worth giving another chance here (read “Track Spy” for more information). Allgreektome has shown ability and gets his chance with Purton booked to ride. Excellent Peers recent runs have been encouraging and can run well. He should relish coming into barrier 2. One For All changed trainer and trialed very well recently, expect a good run.