We began the countdown to the new season in Hong Kong by looking at the Barrier trials run at Conghua, but now we move on to Sha Tin. All of these trials needed to be treated with a degree of caution as it is a fitness and race practice exercise after all. However, there is something to be learned from these races and as discussed in my previous post, there can be an edge to some of this form if you look closely enough. The use of the All-Weather track for the Barrier trials at Sha Tin also allows us to compare the time figures to the standard times provided by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and as such we can put a figure on these races to help with the visual notes. Alongside the notes for the 2 horses identified in this piece you will also find the time comparisons to the standard times for a Class 2 contest and a speed rating for their performance in the Barrier trial.
Won a Barrier trial over 1,050m on the All-Weather track on 23rd August
With horses arriving from jurisdictions all over the world it can be difficult to know which horses are fit and ready to go, which have been handicapped correctly and which will need time to find their level. This was the case with O'Liner who didn't look like a winner in waiting in the 5 starts he made last season after arriving from Australia. He will begin the new season on a mark of 68, a drop of 8 from his opening mark of 76, but there were signs he was beginning to find his level on his final start at Sha Tin in July and he built on that by winning this trial with ease. He ran a time that was less than 1-second outside the standard over 1,050m, making all the running and drawing clear in the closing stages with ease. It is hard to assess the value of this overall form, the 2nd was Double Win, a newcomer from NZ who has a rating of 52, whilst the 3rd placed Special hedge had been beaten a long way on his only start at Sha Tin in July. O'Liner was entitled to win this easily and so he did, but he did produce a good time figure and on that evidence alone he must go close on his seasonal return. A rating of 93.6 for Barrier trial is a strong result and he was over a second faster than the other 2 trials run over the same course and distance the day before.
Finished 2nd in a Barrier Trial over 1,200m on the All-Weather track on 29th August
A winner on his Hong Kong debut at Sha Tin in June, Packing Bole is blessed with a very sharp turn-of-foot from the gate, as he showed when breaking well to make all under Zak Purton on that debut. He is very lightly raced after just 2 starts at Sha Tin, but showed he was fit and well when breaking rapidly from a wide draw to cut across and set the pace in this Barrier trial. He was headed in the closing stages by the equally unexposed Self Improvement (rated 65) but the pair were 3-lengths clear of the rest and the time of 1:09.44 that they ran was the fastest of the 4 trials run on that day. He ran a rating of 93.8 and produced a good time figure (just 1.32s outside of the standard) and if he gets a decent draw and the chance to lead on his seasonal return, he may well prove hard to catch.