Luke Middlebrook : The final Sha Tin meeting of the 2019/20 season takes place on Sunday with an 11-race programme on offer.
Zac Purton’s fourth jockeys’ premiership has been fast-tracked due to rival Joao Moreira copping two careless riding suspensions, but the battle for champion trainer is far from over.
Legendary trainer Tony Cruz told press he needs “at least three winners” on Sunday to keep the dream alive of collecting a third title.
Cruz trails leader Ricky Yiu’s 64 winners by three with two meetings remaining, while Francis Lu sits second on 63.
The trio are out in full force on Sunday, with Yiu saddling up 13 runners, Cruz 10 and Lui eight.
“Obviously it’s my last chance, I think Sunday will be the deciding factor as to whether I’ve got a chance or not,” Cruz said. “I need to pull a few winners off to be in with a chance – I’ll need at least three winners.”
Yiu, by far, has the better chances across the card, with three-year-old Mighty Valor looking a good chance to atone for a last start defeat in the Class 4 1200m in Race 2. After drawing away for a big 4.50-length win at this track and distance two starts ago, Mighty Valor raced second-up 15 days ago but drew out widest in barrier No 14.
The youngster’s first 400m sectional was by far the fastest of the 1200m races on the day, but jockey Matthew Poon had little choice but to use up his mount within that distance to take up the role as pacemaker.
Mighty Valor still ran a good race into third, peaking on his run inside the 150m as those from off the pace started to figure. Importantly, Zac Purton will take over from Poon this week, and he has been afforded a better draw in barrier No 5 which should ensure a more economical run.
Probably the stand out horse on the card is trainer Caspar Fownes’ smart-looking three-year-old Sky Field.
Sky Field races second-up in the Class 4 1200m in race No 6 after a massive run into second first-up 21 days ago. The up-and-comer debuted in late January with an ultra-impressive run into fourth while returning one of the fastest last 400m at the city circuit for the season.
Side-lined with injuries for a few months, Fownes resumed Sky Field off the back of two very good barrier trials and went on the record as saying he’d be “disappointed if he didn’t make a mess of them” at his first-up run.
In context, Fownes probably didn’t have much to be disappointed by, as Sky Field did indeed make a mess of all but one of his rivals after racing with excuses.
The head on replays shows Sky Field lifted his feet as the gates flung back, copped a nasty bump by the horse drawn inside of him which resulted in him losing ground at settling near-last.
Sky Field raced three-wide at the rear in a race that was run to suit those on pace and not those at the back of the field. Still, he did what he did on debut and let down with a sizzling final 400m – 21.54 seconds, the fastest of the meeting – to defy the race shape and miss by 0.50 lengths at the wire.
Moreira will take over the reins from Vincent Ho on Sunday, with the Brazilian known as one of the best at getting horses quick out of the gates, and despite meeting a couple of consistent youngsters in Golden Link and Rewarding Together, Sky Field should be an easy winner.