Tread carefully with Classic Mile favourite on whom Purton hopes to complete his Hong Kong set
He is the favourite with overseas bookmakers and the four-year-old galloper aboard whom Zac Purton hopes to complete his set of the city’s principal feature races, but Packing Treadmill has the slowest 1,600m time of the 11 Classic Mile runners who have Sha Tin course and distance form in the book.
Carrying 121 pounds, including last-minute substitute jockey Dylan Mo Hin-tung following Hugh Bowman’s race fall, Packing Treadmill clocked 1:35.75 to win the Class Two Poinsettia Handicap (1,600m) on Christmas Eve, extend his unbeaten record this season to three and confirm his place in the Classic Mile field.
Many punters say winning form is good form. But the increasing number of data-driven punters who place sectional times and benchmark ratings at the heart of their form analysis say the clock does not lie.
The Poinsettia Handicap that Packing Treadmill won with a relatively light impost – he carried 14 pounds and two pounds less than fellow Classic Mile chances Keefy and Beautyverse, respectively – was the second-slowest of this term’s 25 mile contests at Sha Tin, sandwiched between the low-rating Class Five crawls that This Is Charisma (1:35.88) and Boys Party (1:35.56) stole off handicap marks in the 20s.
According to the Jockey Club’s sectional times, the Poinsettia Handicap was 0.65 slower than the Class Two standard through the first section, 2.19 slower than the Class Two standard through the first two sections and 2.11 slower than the Class Two standard through the first three sections.
One second equates to approximately six lengths, so the opening 1,200m was roughly 13 lengths slower than standard time.
The Poinsettia Handicap’s pedestrian tempo favoured the on-speed gallopers – the first four with 400m remaining filled the frame – and particularly those whose career-best efforts had occurred in sprint races, namely Packing Treadmill and Fantastic Treasure, who finished first and second.
As a son of Manhattan Rain and I’m An Outoftowner, Packing Treadmill’s pedigree is that of a galloper bred to excel over shorter distances than a mile.
Group One-winning juvenile Manhattan Rain did not triumph beyond 1,400m, and the pick of his progeny is She Will Reign, whose elite-level victories happened over 1,200m late in her two-year-old campaign and 1,000m early in her three-year-old season.
I’m An Outoftowner had 22 starts – the last eight for David Hayes and his nephew Tom Dabernig – for two wins, the first over 1,100m and the second over 1,300m.
The probability of Packing Treadmill transporting Purton to the rider’s first Classic Mile success hinges on the tempo of Sunday’s HK$12 million event that kicks off a Classic Series that also includes the Classic Cup (1,800m) on February 26 and the Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) on March 19.
Of the five Classic Mile runners who have made all at least once – Keefy, Beautyverse, Sweet Encounter, Sword Point and Voyage Bubble – the most likely leaders are Sweet Encounter and Voyage Bubble.
What Jamie Kah elects to do aboard Voyage Bubble, who hung on to win a fast-run 1,600m race under Derek Leung Ka-chun two weeks ago, may make or break the chances of not only Packing Treadmill but also Cordyceps Six, who has earned his 111 rating across 17 efforts over either 1,000m or 1,200m.
There are many reasons for punters to tread carefully with the ante-post Classic Mile favourite. And if the first reserve, committed front runner Drombeg Banner, receives a late call-up to the field, it would all but guarantee a fast tempo for Sunday’s showdown.
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