Luke Middlebrook, Hong Kong: The Big Wave Bay Handicap is the feature race of the eight-race card at Happy Valley’s season opener on Wednesday night with a field of nine Class 2 gallopers contesting the 1650m tight city circuit.
Trainer Caspar Fownes, the “King of the Valley”, will look to put a slew of seconds (three, in fact) behind him and land his first win of the season with a horse he holds in high regard.
“From being a young guy in Hong Kong I’ve always had an affinity with the Valley,” Fownes told the South China Morning Post. “I always set my horses for that track and I’ll be doing my best to remain the King of the Valley.
“It’s good to be heading back there. I’ve been a bit unlucky so far this season but my horses are racing well so I’m happy. That being said, it’s always good to snag a winner early.”
Five-year-old gelding Green Luck is Fownes’ entrant in the feature event and he looks a good bet to take it out.
The lightly-raced son of Street Cry arrived in Hong Kong a two-time winner from Australia and unsurprisingly has taken to Happy Valley, boasting two wins and two placings from four starts at the city track.
Green Luck’s rich vein of form at the back end of last season appears to have maintained if his recent 1000m barrier trial is to go by, and with Joao Moreira booked to ride, he gets a good chance to earn ratings points to solidify Fownes’ opinion.
“I’ve been saying for a while that I think he’ll reach triple figures [in the ratings]and I hope I’m right,” he said.
Elsewhere on the card Gold Velvet should have derived plenty of benefit from a first-up run and looks a good Eachway chance in Race 3.
Trainer Tony Millard’s six-year-old Gold Velvet ran a much better race than the eye suggests first up over the mile at Sha Tin on opening day, and he now returns to Happy Valley where his better form lies – look for him late in the piece.
Meanwhile, champion jockey Zac Purton, who arguably is the best rider around the Valley, partners trainer John Moore’s South African-bred five-year-old Chefano in Race 7.
Formerly known as Vacquero in South Africa, Chefano has yet to figure in five local starts, but showed big improvement with a stable change to Moore at the end of last season.
Chefano has been gelded in the off season and looks on song to landing that elusive first win.
Race 1: Royal Racer boasts a strong trainer and jockey combination in Fownes and Moreira and its last run was full of merit. Green Dispatch can lead in this race and be hard to run down, a Class 4 win is imminent. Dream Warriors had genuine excuses last start with lacerated legs so consider again. Faithful Trinity went on the win two starts ago and must be given a chance here. Polymer Luck is an on-pace runner who could finish in the placings.
Race 2: Exponents’ last run suggested a win was very near and he looks hard to hold out here. Leisured Feet offered a solid effort last start and must be rated to go all the way. Prawn Yeah Yeah looks ready to run a big race in Class 5, and trialled nicely ahead of this. Raichu was eased early before catching the eye late, and can go close with Moreira in the saddle. Whistle Up has been placed last two starts and deserves a win soon.
Race 3: Little Island looks ready to run a big race in Class 5 under Purton, rated too well here. Gold Velvet’s video replay showed its last run was very good. Megatron can lead in this race and be hard to run down, especially under Chan’s 4.5kg claim. Sky Gem will be suited by the rise in distance and can run well. Dragon Warrior’s last run was better than it reads so do not dismiss.
Race 4: Green Luck has displayed consistent form lately and can score here with Moreira and Fownes teaming up. Doctor Geoff went on the win two starts ago and must be given a chance here, despite being a bit erratic. Has plenty of ability. Mission Tycoon is a fast jumper who can run well if he finds an easy lead. Harmony Hero has not been beaten far in recent starts so do not dismiss. Has a big turn of foot which looks ideal here in the small field. Right Choice is a five-time winner that is well placed at this level.
Race 5: Best Smile has trialled well since a nice debut run and Purton takes the ride. Will be hard to beat. Sam’s Love has ability and is always dangerous in this grade. Zero Hedge has the potential to recapture form in this grade, looked well in a recent trial and can be in the money. Look Eras is a fast jumper who can run well if he finds an easy lead. Winning Ways faded late last start, but can improve.
Race 6: Bullish Brother is a dangerous frontrunner who can be hard to catch and looks hard to beat under Moreira. Lady First ran on strongly in a recent trial and its form is good. Very Sweet Orange’s recent runs have been encouraging and it can run well up on the speed. Flying Tiger Hero changed trainer recently and can improve based on an encouraging barrier trial. Strathallan drops down in grade and it could pay to start following.
Race 7: Perfect To Play appears to be very well suited to the track and distance, and he looked well in a recent trial. Chefano was gelded after last run and looks for improvement here. Last Kingdom changed trainer and can be a breakthrough for trainer Douglas Whyte. Merrygowin looks a chance if you go on previous consistent form. All You Know’s recent runs have been encouraging and can run well.
Race 8: Jumbo Happiness is racing well and has been recording good 400m rankings, looks enough pace in the race to figure late. Dream Come True is a dangerous frontrunner who can be hard to catch. Frustrated likes to jump and run and should be in the leading division; trialled nicely for his return. Smart Leader remains a maiden galloper but clearly gets a chance to win here under Moreira. Ballistic King is an improving type who is nearing a win.