PUNTERS have been set fiendishly difficult puzzles to solve when racing takes place in Hong Kong this afternoon.
With the Happy Valley racetrack having a week’s respite to allow the winter grass to grow, the action is transferred to the all-weather course at Sha Tin.
Many professional bettors don’t like playing on dirt racing at Sha Tin, believing there are too many imponderables to assess.
With racing taking place under floodlights, dirt racing can play funny tricks.
With humidity around 85 per cent, condensation gets into the surface, with the likelihood of some strange results.
Punters will have to gauge whether the track suits horses up with the pace from the off – the last night meeting at Sha Tin in November produced six winners from eight races who were in the front rank from the start.
Or should they follow horses that dash fast and late down the home stretch? The draw also plays an important factor.
Over the last three seasons horses drawn between one and five have won over 50 per cent of races run over six furlongs.
The extended mile course has only a short run to the first of four bends, with the result that horses drawn with double-figure numbers have to work hard to get into a good position or are caught wide for most of the race.
It’s interesting that horses drawn between one to three over the last three seasons have won 30 per cent of races over the extended mile.
It obviously doesn’t mean horses with high draw numbers can’t win, but make sure if you fancy a horse with a high figure, he has a leading jockey aboard.
The sixth race on the card, run over 1m1f, gives horses a chance to slot into a favourable position during the race.
Reigning champion trainer John Size, who currently leads the 2017/18 title race with 39 winners, is in a rich vein of form.
The Australian handler has sent out a dozen winners and six places from his last 50 runners.
He saddles top-weight and former group performer PRAWN BABA (12.15pm), who looks set for an overdue success.
The five-year-old steps down into Class2 company, after posting an encouraging fourth in his first try on the dirt surface, behind Dubai World Cup meeting-bound Classic Emperor, over the extended mile earlier this month.
The step up in distance is an obvious plus, having won over the trip from a similar rating last season.
The inside draw sets him up for a dream journey along the rails, and he can give a belated birthday present to his highly-rated young jockey Sam Clipperton, who was 24 on Monday.
For anyone looking to play forecasts or tricasts on the race, keep an eye on the Joao Moreira-ridden bottom weight Let Us Win, strong stayer Willie Way, and Roman Impero.
All three are capable of improving from their current handicap marks.
Earlier in the afternoon, Moreira is a significant booking on AMAZING RACE (12.15pm), who has drawn the inside number.
The lightly-raced gelding has been close-up in all three races this season from outside draws. Fortune has finally swung in his favour and he will be hard to beat.
Amazing Race 12.15pm Sha Tin
Prawn Baba 1.50pm Sha Tin