Horse Racing

Hong Kong Racing Study Guide: A Key To Understanding Barrier Trials

The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s form guide for their races does not include workout information in a format that American horseplayers are used to. It is much better.

Horses that are racing at Sha Tin and Happy Valley participate in barrier trials throughout the season. They can be on the Sha Tin turf, Sha Tin all-weather track, Happy Valley turf, Conghua turf and Conghua all-weather track. Horses coming off long layoffs and those making their first start show their readiness in barrier trials over various surfaces and distances.

The barrier trials are televised and archived for viewing.

Before each barrier trial is shown, the opening screen shows the site, the date, the trial number, the post position (draw), name of the horse, rider and rating. At Sha Tin and Happy Valley, most of the riders are recognized jockeys. At Conghua, most of the riders are exercise riders.

The rating gives you a key to understanding the quality of the horses in the barrier trial. You can see horses that are group stakes quality all the way down to class five handicap. In a barrier trial on November 11, 2021, there were five horses rated over 100 in it.

After the barrier trials are finished, charts are published that are race-like and list the horses in their order of finish, the equipment they wore, how far behind the winner they finished, their running position at each sectional, their final time, whether they passed their test if they were required to do so by the stewards and a short synopsis of the trial.

At a glance, you can tell if a horse has natural speed, how they finish, and how much exertion their rider was asking for. The times of the barrier trials are surprisingly fast and you want to see the horse running well without much encouragement.

In the form guide, after the last page of past performances, there is a page titled “Barrier Trial Information” that lists every barrier trial since a horse’s last start. If they are making their career debut, it will list all their barrier trials.

Class 4 handicaps will have horses making their career debuts – usually rated at 52 and carrying 125 pounds. Their barrier trials will be then listed in chronological order. The ones nearest the debut will probably be the fastest.

One handicapping angle I like to use is to compare the current odds of the debut runners. They are available for every horse in every race 24 hours before the first race post time.


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