By News Team
3rd April 2020
Unlike the inner-city setting of Happy Valley in Hong Kong, where racegoers flock to on a Wednesday night for a party and a punt, Sha Tin is situated about 20 minutes outside of the city centre and hosts all of the weekend action.
The racing at Sha Tin tends to be of higher quality, with it hosting all but one of Hong Kong’s Group races during the season, including December’s famed Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) meeting and April’s FWD Champions Day.
Racedays typically take place on Sundays at Sha Tin, with the time difference meaning that UK fans will have to set their alarms for around 5 am to catch the opening races and at around 8 am to tune in to the final few.
Sha Tin has two tracks: turf and all-weather.
The turf track is used for the vast majority of races, including all Group races, while the all-weather course can be likened to the dirt in America and is used less frequently.
Unlike Happy Valley’s tight-turning track, almost like Chester in the UK in many ways, Sha Tin is a large, oval galloping track, where jockeys tend to experience fewer hard luck stories and less of a draw bias.
On balance, though, it would still be fair to say that low-to-mid stall numbers are preferable overall trips on both the turf and dirt surfaces.
Who to follow – Jockeys
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the rider the locals revere as their ‘Magic Man’, Joao Moreira, is Sha Tin’s most successful jockey.
The Brazilian ace has around a 25% strike rate at the track and subsequently manages to pick up some of the best rides.
Moreira famously set a new riding record when partnering a remarkable eight winners in one day at Sha Tin back in 2017, and it’s performances like that which have helped him become Hong Kong’s Champion Jockey three times in a row between 2014 and 2017.
Moreira leads the way once again both overall and at Sha Tin this season, though he is being closely pursued by current champion Zac Purton.
With a 15% strike rate, Aussie Purton would be the other man to follow at the track.
His Group 1 wins alone at Sha Tin run into double figures and he’s rarely without a good ride in the top races.
Who to follow – Trainers
Having trained over 1,700 winners and now in his final season as a trainer, John Moore is one of Hong Kong’s most respected handlers.
Moore is Hong Kong’s winning-most and longest-serving trainer, and given he’s been training in the territory since 1985, his 10% strike rate is commendable.
The Australian trains the likes of champion miler Beauty Generation, sprinter Aethero, and in years gone by greats including Able Friend, Designs On Rome and Rapper Dragon, who all won Group 1 prizes at Sha Tin.
In terms of the current strike rate, John Size is arguably the most feared trainer at the track.
Formerly top trainer in Sydney, the 65-year-old is the current and 11-time Hong Kong champion and has an unrivalled 15% strike rate at Sha Tin.
Size’s current crop of runners, who have all tasted success at Sha Tin, includes Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint winner Beat The Clock.
Away from the big two of Size and Moore, it could pay to keep an eye on the up-and-coming pair of Frankie Lor and Douglas Whyte.
Lor was assistant trainer to both Size and Moore but is now in his second season as a trainer by himself.
He has a 14% strike rate at the track, higher than the 11% he’s operating on at Happy Valley, while recent notable Sha Tin wins include the Hong Kong Sprint (2018 Mr Stunning), Hong Kong Cup (2018 Glorious Forever), Hong Kong Classic Mile (2019 Furore), and the Hong Kong Derby (2019 Furore).
Former jockey and nicknamed ‘The Durban Demon’, Whyte is an exciting new addition to the training ranks.
Having been Hong Kong Champion Jockey for 13 consecutive seasons, Whyte knows the Sha Tin track like the back of his hand and has already sent out over 20 winners at the course.
His win rate at Sha Tin is 13%, compared to just 5% at Happy Valley, so he’s another to follow at Hong Kong’s premier track.