By News Team
Last Updated: 9th April 2020
Like no other racetrack in the world, Happy Valley, situated in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong Island, is a theatre that becomes jam-packed every Wednesday night with locals looking to party and punt.
Crowds gather in steep multi-storey stands that loom on top of the home straight, while the remainder of the course is circled by towering, high-rise buildings. It’s as if somebody has dropped a racetrack in the middle of Manhattan.
You can expect to see crowds hit 50,000, turnover climb to £15,000,000 and plenty of hard-luck stories, as the Valley’s tight-turning track means there’s always a fair share of traffic problems for the jockeys and horses.
The track: Hong Kong’s answer to Chester
Chester Racecourse is undoubtedly the UK’s tightest-turning circular track and, apart from the fact they race clockwise in Hong Kong, Happy Valley is very similar.
Replace the Roodee’s ancient city walls with skyscrapers, race them around the other way and turn the humidity up a few percent and you could be racing in Hong Kong.
Like at Chester, speed from the gates is everything.
Get a position from the break, on or one off the rail and preferably somewhere near the pace, and you can stay out of trouble and save ground around the courses inner.
Miss the break and fear being pushed out wide on a near-constantly turning track or settle for a spot out the back where traffic problems almost certainly await.
The draw: Low numbers are key
Again, like Chester, a double-figure draw can put you at a huge disadvantage before the barriers fling open.
Though races over five furlongs, where the contest begins at the start of the back straight, are less affected by the draw, an inside stall is highly favourable over the six-furlong and mile distances.
The maximum allowed in a race at the Valley is 12, and the stats show that anything from stall eight or higher is a massive negative over those trips, while the win and place percentages almost double for the inside three stalls.
Over six-furlongs and a mile, the first sharp right-hand bend comes up quick and if you can’t get across to the rail you’re in for either a very wide journey, a rough finish from the back of the pack, or a bit of both.
Who to follow: Caspar’s the King of the Valley
His recent strike rate on the big days at Sha Tin is underwhelming at just 7%, but when the floodlights are on at Happy Valley there’s no better trainer to follow than Caspar Fownes.
Locals call him the ‘King of the Valley’ and you can see why as his win-rate almost doubles to 13% at the city track.
Fownes is fast-approaching 500 career wins at Happy Valley, second only to Hong Kong’s legendary 70-year-old trainer John Moore, and most of his runners get well-backed on a Wednesday night.
One other name making waves on a Wednesday in Hong Kong is local second-season trainer Jimmy Ting.
The Hong Konger is operating with a 16% strike rate at the city track and he’s a handler on the up.
As for jockeys, it’s hard to look outside the top two of Joao Moreira and Zac Purton, as they tend to be first in line for the top rides, but one other rider who tends to ride the Valley well is claimer Matthew Poon.
With a 9% strike rate and claiming 2lbs in the saddle, Poon is the go-to man for any trainer looking for a bit of help in the handicap.