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Ahhhhh, now, this is getting more like it- a good card of eleven races at Shatin, most of them looking fiercely competitive, some good racing with horses in classes two and three, and where we might actually see a more level playing field and not another master class from Joao Moreira.

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The Magic Man is great for racing, with his complete dominance of Hong Kong racing makes even the hey days of the Douglas Whyte Years look insignificant in comparison. But what can one do when faced with a rider who has raised the bar with rides of sheer brilliance that recall the genius of Formula 1’s Ayrton Senna? Just to break the monopoly and bring some value into play, one can only hope that bad barrier draws stop a rampaging Moreira, or that he shows he’s human by making a mistake and pulling the wrong rein.

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Today just might be one of those rare days where magic disappear along with the rabbits with his rides in the last three races having drawn barriers 14, 10 and 12, respectively. In Race 2, he’s drawn barrier 12, in Race 3, barrier 10, and in Race 8, barrier 11. If that isn’t a game leveller, what is?

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Barriers aside, who’s there to offer him some competition? There’s always Zac Purton, a rejuvenated Brett Prebble, and the ultra-competitive Neil Callan who outgunned him on Griffindor last Sunday. But that brief turn-up for the books was tempered by Brett Prebble looking to be shaking his head in disbelief when Moreira came from an impossible position at the same meeting to casually- and almost arrogantly- pip him on the line aboard General Iron. It was like, well, magic.

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Prebble, a very strong rider in a finish, has been shaking his head in disbelief quite a bit this season with Moreira, known as “The Ghost” when riding in São Paulo, appearing from the clouds to spoil a number of his parties.

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Meanwhile, who knows what happened to derail The Magic Man’s flying carpet trips Down Under to ride no-hopers for Godolphin, but it just might have clipped his wings when it comes to being offered rides from other major stables. More to the point, from everything heard when in Melbourne recently, stables flying in riders from overseas, especially Hong Kong, might just be a thing of the past. The win of Michelle Payne on the Darren Weir-trained Prince Of Penzance in the Melbourne Cup, apart from its fairy tale ending, looks to have given the Made In Oz brand and The Race That Stops A Nation a much-needed comeback along with good old Helen Reddy still singing “I Am Woman.”

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Back here in Hong Kong, and as the SCMP’s Alan Aitken wrote in his On The Rails column, apart from also wondering about the raison d’être for the new Composite Bet that offers zero value, we, too, can’t quite comprehend how and why those in charge of broadcasting at 1 Sports Road allowed former jockey Shane Dye, a knowledgeable horseman, and a well-known name to the more mature local racing fan, to slip through their net and walk straight into the waiting arms of the team in Oz.

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From what we’ve seen, the outspoken and opinionated Dye- and what’s wrong with having an opinion?- is hugely popular with racing fans, most of whom only wish that one of “Billy Idol’s” co-panellists- David Gator- would put a lid on it and not talk all over someone with a great deal more experience about only fools and horses and riding in races.

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Looking at today’s card, it’s unusual these days to see Douglas Whyte ride anything for the Richard Gibson yard, but, Butch and Sundance team up in the Group Three Sa Sa Ladies Purse with Got Fly, which should go close.

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This team is a wobbly one with powerful owner Pan Sutong insisting that Whyte, who rode his Gold-Fun perfectly at his last start when beaten by Able Friend, be replaced on the horse by Christophe Soumillon in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint. The Belgian ace having won a Group One on Gold-Fun might have had something to do with it. Maybe.

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Elsewhere on the card, it’s a bit of a surprise to see Zac Purton back on a couple of horses for John Moore after almost a two year “hiatus” from riding for the stable and all the drama that led to Military Attack moving to Caspar Fownes. Absence- and abstinence- always makes the heart grow fonder…

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There’s a big Triple Trio Jackpot up for grabs, but with the first leg being one of those 1000 metre sprints where those horses drawn the outside barriers always holding a distinct advantage, and the last leg being a lottery, it wouldn’t surprise to see players coming up empty-handed trying to snare this.

Having said this, Moreira on the David Hall-trained Penang Hall (2) in the first leg looks like being banker material whereas Motif with Gerald Mosse up in the last leg should run into the placings on which should be an extremely tough, but absorbing day of racing where there’s certain to be plenty of value around, especially in Races 1,4,7 and 10. That Race 10 has all the signs of a huge blowout for punters.

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Best Bet: Race 2: Dancing Flames (1)


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