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With, including today, only eleven race meetings left before the curtain falls on this season and Earth, Wind And Fire are wheeled out to sing “September”, there’s a sense of things winding down and priorities coming into play.

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Joao Moreira has an enforced break through a suspension and must be kicking back and looking forward to partnering Able Friend at Ascot on June 16.

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After riding- and winning on Strawberry Boy at Doomben yesterday, Zac Purton is back after serving out a suspension and looks to have chosen his rides carefully, and unwilling to go around on no-hopers. What for? Have someone else do that menial job.

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These remaining meetings might be the time when the local boys- Vincent Ho, Keith Yeung and Derek Leung- will have their day in the sun to shine. With Matthew Chadwick back after a lengthy period on the sidelines with an injured hand, watch his rides, especially for Tony Cruz, who’ll be going all out to present the local rider with some winning chances. And give him a hand.

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To have his licensed renewed for next season, the very likeable Andy Suborics will have to get on with riding a brace of winners over the next few meetings. This looks a forlorn hope and those dinners in Hong Kong at Wagyu on Wyndham Street might be coming to a close for him.

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Gerald Mosse, who rode his first winner on Wednesday night after his return from the wilderness, might have his own problems having his license renewed for another season. It might not be too much Allez Allez going on.

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Meanwhile battling “Olympian” trainers Andreas Schutz and, especially, Sean Woods, might be making waves over their training facilities and menu of reasons for their lack of winners, but Director of Racing, Bill Nader, shooting straight-from-the-hip to the SCMP about what is sounding increasingly like a meringue pie made up of The Blame Game, Much Ado About Nothing and Desperate Housewives, put a bullet into those arguments. It was Mr Bill’s finest hour and reduced “the Gang of Four” into the lonely sound of one hand clapping.

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Zen VD Clinic - one hand clap

Woods could become the wilderness, if one were to follow the bouncing ball and read the tea leaves.

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As for today at Shatin, it’s an extremely challenging card where upsets could be the order of the day with no one jockey looking to have a lock on the Jockey Challenge. This always means spreading the wins around with one of the less successful names like Jacky Tong or Eddie Lai- or Damien Lane, who’s had a disappointing stay so far with only two winners on the board- popping up on some scary Jack In The Box longshots.

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The disappointing Hong Kong stints of Christian Reith, and now Lane- both, mainly through a lack of stable support- should give the Licensing Board some food for thought when granting new licenses- and to whom and when. New faces into the riding ranks are always nice, but not if all they do is hang about trying to smile through the pain of it all.

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As a few owners have mentioned this season, they have their horses with local trainers as it’s easier to communicate with them- and jockeys who speak their language. Hong Kong, being a bilingual city, is something so obvious, it’s easily forgotten during the hiring process in many businesses. And when it comes to racing- especially those horses in the lower grades with local trainers, the subject of language barriers have to come into play.

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Ever wonder what Alex Lai is doing riding horses for David Ferraris like Peace On Earth which won at 15s on Wednesday? Think about it.

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And think about all this when making your selections today. It’s looking like it will be one helluva day in Hades.

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RACE 1

Caspar Fownes backs up Bunker Shot after a good third on Wednesday and must be given a good chance with the in-form Vincent Ho aboard. After that? Your guess is as good as mine.

SELECTIONS: 1-3-5-7

RACE 2

A Class 5 race? On the dirt?

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RACE 3

The Zac Attack is being given more and more rides from Richard Gibson, and here they combine with a big winning chance in Joyful Moments.

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Dougie Whyte finally gives Master Mind the elbow and gets on All My Gain, which can’t be ignored, whereas the interesting runner is Strathearn. It’s last few runs have been extremely disappointing and here, with trainer Tony Millard deciding to race it down a class, it’s got to go in despite the wide draw. It’s better than its last few runs suggest.

SELECTIONS: (6)-1-2-4-7-8-9

RACE 4

Tony Millard has taken his time getting this expensive South African import back to racing for owner David Hui after some average runs despite an impressive second at its Hong Kong debut. Dougie Whyte who is back in “Millie’s” good books after an acrimonious split with the temperamental trainer over- what else? Ambitious Dragon- gets on board the galloper for the first time after being a somewhat regular ride for Joao Moreira and Zac Purton.

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Track watchers report Secret Command has been working well, and as he did with Rainbow Fighter on Wednesday, Whyte knows when to call for rides. He might be third in Jockey Premiership, but Douglas Whyte talks softly and still carries a very big stick.

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Perhaps, in this first leg of the Triple Trio, take Secret Command with the untapped potential of Colossus, or Número Uno, which is a much better horse than its recent runs show, as double bankers. Its last start fifth over course and distance was much better than it looked. Olivier Doleuze takes over from young Damien Lane and expect improvement.

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For a value place chance, consider Victory Heart.

SELECTIONS: (6)-2-4-5-8-13

RACE 5

One of those all-weather all-bother races where anything can happen depending on how the surface has been prepared and where I lean towards Easy Success. The galloper has won over course and distance for its team today- Chris So and a rejuvenated Brett Prebble who’s back riding like the Group 1 winning jockey he is.

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Fish N’Chips is a surprise overnight favourite, and is a decent enough chance along with Modern Fortune, Hurry Hurry Up and Trillion Treasure, which is well in on the weights with apprentice Jack Wong’s ten pound allowance. It could get to the front- and stay there.

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SELECTIONS (3-6)-1-2-4-7-8-9

RACE 6

After two prep runs following a break, Tony Cruz will have Terrific Master primed for this race, and which is probably why one sees Dougie Whyte jumping on it for the first time.

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Keith Yeung, who has been the regular rider for Terrific Master, sticks with Unique Joyful, a decision that must be respected. Having said this, the good young local rider let Amigo Clint down on Wednesday aboard General Iron and the Amigo’s NAP for the night in Goodheart Success despite giving both rides two Thumbs Up when interviewed on the Racing To Win spectacular. Alas, both were never spotted at any time.

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Amigo Clint. Let down by Keith Yeung on Wednesday

As for this race, you’ll have to include Great Toplight and Winnam, which remains enigmatic to me in that I have no idea if it’s as good as the odds say it is every time it runs- and fails to win.

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There are some real roughies here- those runners going around to drop in the handicaps- that might just decide to put their best hooves forward and make mugs outta all of us.

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SELECTIONS: 1-2-5-8-4

RACE 7

The Cup race for the day, and with Savvy Nature sadly out through lameness, this should be taken out by Zac Purton on Renaissance Art for Caspar Fownes. If there is to be one that spoils this party, it could be the much-improved Richard Gibson runner Take To The Limit with Gerald Mosse aboard.

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SELECTIONS: 2-5-8-6

RACE 8

Another dirt race and one that might throw up a wobbly and a huge glob of mud in your eye.

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Winnie’s Horse has been running almost every week and should be fit and ready for this with other strong chances being Horse Aplenty, Cartoon Fay Fay, Buddy Buddies and way down in the weights, Entrusting. Fasten your seat belts. There could be a bumpy ride ahead.

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SELECTIONS: 5-8-10-14-1

RACE 9

A very good betting race where I’ll be betting everything around Amber Dragon, a good ride for Matthew Chadwick to return to the winning enclosure, Laugh Out Loud and Five Up High, whose last start disappointments should be forgiven and forgotten.

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SELECTIONS: 2-4-5-7

RACE 10

Box together Lucky Year, Lucky Bubbles (flatulence after champers?) and Line Seeker and you’ll be singing “Get Lucky”.

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One of these MUST win this or run the quinella and even the tierce. There’s nothing here that can beat these so look for some value chances for the Quartet and take the Third Double Trio.

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SELECTIONS: (2-4)-3-6-7-9-14

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BEST BET: RACE 7 RENAISSANCE ART(3)
NEXT BEST: RACE 10 LUCKY YEAR (2)
LONGSHOT: RACE 3 STRATHEARN (2)

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SIX UP

R5: 3-4-6
R6: 1-2-4-5-8
R7: 3
R8: 1-5-8-10-14
R9: 2
R10: 2-5

PARTING SHOT

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