THE MAURITIAN MAGICIAN 1

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Race 1

A Class 5 race on the turf before we say Adios to the Year of the Horse, and greet The Year of the Ram where, below, jockeys Moreira, Purton, Whyte and Callan rammed on last Happy Wednesday at Happy Valley. Don’t ask me to tell you who’s who. They all look the same.

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Here’s hoping the new Lunar Year doesn’t make goats of us or turn us into wooly sheep blindly following those well-orchestrated overnight odds that are there to tease and deceive us like Santana’s Black Magic Woman.

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As for this race, I’d be driving my lorry past Lion Rock and munching on my char siu bar to bother having a bet on some truly average horses. The one horse to perhaps look at twice is The Only Kid which only goes well for Monsieur Mosse. But it hasn’t gone well in ages whereas his jockey won’t even be taking his horses four wide in search of McDonald’s for a long time.

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SELECTIONS: 11-14-4-3

Race 2

The Dim Sum Handicap and a Class 4 event over 1400 metres which you should really sit out and, instead, wait for the main courses on the card- the truffles and not these prawn crackers.

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QUARTET SELECTIONS: (5) 9-13-14-2-3

Race 3

Whaaaaah? Douglas Whyte riding a horse for Tony Millard after an acrimonious split years ago to do with- what else?- Ambitious Dragon-and a rift that didn’t ever look like healing?

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Whyte rides “Millie’s” Penny Lane for the first time, and though drawn barrier 13 can run into a place in a race where the Quartet can be whopper.

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QUARTET SELECTIONS: (2)-6-4-8-10-11

Race 4

As usual, a tough start to the Triple Trio made even tougher by this being a dreaded dirt race. But with dirt specialists Captain Fantastic (Doleuze) and The Brown Dirt Cowboy(trainer Michael Chang) combining here with Good Fit, take it as a value banker.

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The pair have a remarkable strike record in dirt races, especially Captain Fantastic, who has ridden on these types of tracks when in the US, and knows how much horses detest the kickback- who does?- and has the knack to keep his rides from harms way.

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SELECTIONS: 7-5-2-1

Race 5

Richard Gibson has a strong hand here with Zac Purton on Wayfoong Express and Dougie Whyte on Got Fly. Zac, who rarely rides for Dickie, has won on Wayfoong Express over course and distance whereas Dougie has been hovering over the promising Got Fly like an expectant father.

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Apart from the race, what will be interesting to watch will be if the jockeys- and there’s no love lost between them- make eye contact with each other when receiving riding instructions from the trainer in the paddock.

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QUARTET SELECTIONS: (3-2)-5-10-11-12

Race 6

Rarely do I get sucked into backing a horse from the Sean Woods yard, but here, Goldland Dancer appeals in this dirt race with Howard Cheng aboard.

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The Duck Man has been having a helluva lean trot since returning from a lengthy suspension, but having won on this galloper over course and distance, he has a very good chance to actually get a winner on board and stop people taking cheap quacks at him.

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On suspensions, of course, these have to be meted out whenever any perceived wrongs are done, but the problem is that, apart from Moreira in those early days, most jockeys, especially apprentices, return as rusty as Krusty The Clown, make mistakes and are benched again. They don’t exactly learn anything from being suspended and a solution is needed.

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Then there are the seeming inconsistencies to some where obvious misdemeanours by a jockey in a race go unnoticed. A week or two later, the same jockey receives the heave ho for something far less serious, but has no idea what he’s done, or if this is payback time for what was missed before. He pays the time for the crime, and returns confused as to what’s right from wrong.

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Reading the Stipes Report after Wednesday night’s races, it’s a wonder the racing police didn’t also ask jockey Vincent CY Ho to walk on water after receiving an unnecessarily convoluted warning from “Mr Chipps” for his ride on Joyeux.

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It was mind-boggling stuff as was Neil Callan copping another three-day suspension for his ride on Longwah Amber with the Stewards waiving aside any fine stating that Maxime Guyon on Let Me Do was also culpable for the traffic incident that happened. So, was what’s good (or bad) for the goose is surely also good or bad for the gander? Guess not.

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Callan, below, a fiercely competitive rider, who other jockeys- and maybe Callan himself- openly say has put in some recent rides that deserved suspensions, now sits things out probably wondering what’s right and what’s wrong and returns to the saddle none the wiser. And rusty. Holidays in Phuket do nothing to keep one’s riding skills sharp and alert.

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SELECTIONS: (5) 8-12-3-4

Race 7

The 1200 metre Chairman’s Sprint Prize where Peniaphobia is sure to start a short-priced favourite with Aerovelocity looking the main danger.

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Having said this, ignore Smart Volatility at your peril. The galloper has been promising to deliver for some time, and here, the Magic Man, Joao Moreira, jumps on board for the first time, which just might- poof- do the trick.

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SELECTIONS: 5-2-7-4

RACE 8

Apart from Race 6 where anything could win, this is the toughest race of the day with the only tip being Moreira jumping off his last-start winner Thunder Flying to ride Travel Renyi. But, could the Magic Man have made a mistake? Or is trying to make goats of us?

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SELECTIONS: 7-2-4-9

Race 9

The Hong Kong Classic Cup where Beauty Only is sure to be favourite- but this is a very open race with a number of questions needing to be asked about many of the runners: Has billionaire owner Pan Sutong overpaid for a dud in Giant Treasure?

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Has the John Moore-trained Helene Happy Star been waiting for Hughie Bowman to fly in to produce its best?

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Will Gerald Mosse’s folly Bergere- Redkirk Warrior- now the ride of Joao Moreira- beat them all after a very facile last start victory?

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Will Contentment make amends for its last start second to the whirlwind finish of Redkirk Warrior when a red hot favourite?

My answer would be to stick with Redkirk Warrior and watch for more magic from racing’s amazing Magic Man who’s not only “in the zone”, he’s in his own sphere. There’s him- and the rest, no matter how good they might be.

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SELECTIONS: (9-1)-6-2-7

Race 10

Luger finally makes its long-awaited appearance with, good gawd, Douglas Whyte actually aboard a John Size galloper with the former besties, pictured below, showing one-time unabashed man love. Eeeeew. And they say there’s no truth in advertising?

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The owner of Luger must have insisted in the jockey booking considering that Whyte knows this horse inside out.

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Though Size is an astute horseman and won’t run Luger if it wasn’t ready and over the problems that has kept it away from the race track for so long, it’s still a risky bet after such a long absence.

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Barrier 14, meanwhile, shouldn’t bother Romantic Touch which needs to be ridden off the pace before unleashing that now-familiar withering run down the outside as we saw at its last run in Happy Valley. Will we see a similar finish at Shatin? Yes- and probably an even more lethal one.

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QUARTET SELECTIONS: (7)-1-2-3-8-12

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BEST BET: RACE 10: ROMANTIC TOUCH (7)
NEXT BEST: RACE 9: BEAUTY ONLY (1)AND REDKIRK WARRIOR (9) QUINELLA
LONGSHOT: RACE 4: GOOD FIT (7)

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SIX UP

R5: 2-3
R6: 3-5-7-8-12
R7: 2-5
R8: 2-4-7-9
R9: 1-9
R10: 7

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PARTING SHOT

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