Hong Kong Racing Study Guide: Channeling Harvey Pack In Hong Kong Handicapping Stew - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Hong Kong Racing Study Guide: Channeling Harvey Pack In Hong Kong Handicapping Stew

Russian Emperor (wearing shadow roll) stages a big upset over Romantic Warrior

There are many ingredients that go into a stew and when brought to a simmer, it can be quite tasty. Each individual ingredient might be boring on its own but when occupying the same pot at the right temperature for the right time, the results can be delightful.

The G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin race course in Hong Kong on May 28 saw a heavy favorite go down and understanding how it happened provides us with a few teachable moments.

Run at 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles), it is the last Group 1 stakes race of the season. Without any other targets left this season, Danny Shum decided to enter Romantic Warrior despite the horse having never gone farther than 2,000 meters in his stellar career. The bettors agreed and didn't see much risk in the extended distance at level weights and sent off Romantic Warrior as the 1-5 betting favorite.

But there are two handicapping axioms that come to mind in this situation. They are both attributed to the late Harvey Pack, legendary New York handicapping personality. Talking about odds-on favorites, Pack would repeat the axiom that “there's hardly a man alive that paid the mortgage at 3 to 5.”  The other was “never bet a horse trying to do something for the first time as the favorite.”

For Romantic Warrior, both axioms applied. He was undervalued at 1-5 and being asked to do something he never did before with little pari-mutuel return even if he could do it.

Russian Emperor won the Champions & Chater Cup last season and has had an ambitious campaign this season. Doug Whyte took him to Qatar in February where he won the US$2.5 million HH Amir Trophy going 2,400 meters. He came back two weeks later in the G1 Jebel Hatta at Meydan in Dubai and was beaten less than three lengths going only 1,800 meters. Stretched back out to 2,400 for the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic, he lost by just over 11 lengths to Japanese superstar Equinox.

After arriving back from the Middle East and time running out, Doug Whyte entered him in the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Handicap back here at Sha Tin on May 7. No matter what the result, this would serve as the perfect prep race to defend his Champions and Chater Cup crown.

There were a couple of teachable moments from the race, all of which can be added to our handicapping stew. First, Russian Emperor was assigned high weight of 135 pounds. Second, the race was contested on “soft” ground, which resulted in a slow running time of 2:31.16 seconds for the 2,400 meters. And third, the winner only carried 117 pounds.

Dismissed as the 9-1 third betting choice in the Champions and Chater Cup, Russian Emperor sat off a slow pace for the first 1,600 meters. Cruising along on an easy lead was Romantic Warrior. Zac Purton was in full control until Derek Leung pulled Money Catcher from second place on the rail to challenge Romantic Warrior on his outside. The pace quickened as the fifth 400 meters was run in 23.18 seconds and while the war against Money Catcher looked like it was settled, the war was not over.

With 100 meters to run, Romantic Warrior  still had a clear lead but the energy used in the fifth 400-meter sectional was going to drain him for the sixth and final. Romantic Warrior ran his final 400 meters in 24.28 while Russian Emperor threw a 23.75 final at him and it was just enough to seize victory by a nose.

The energy that Purton used to battle Money Catcher's early move paid dearly as the champ shortened stride in the final yards. Russian Emperor rewarded his backers with a tasty $18.60 win price. And, even if you didn't bet him, there was much to learn from the race.

Russian Emperor
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