Shibala has tactical speed to prevail
Shibala has had a career punctuated with problems, but there has been no doubt about his ability and the Manfred Man Ka-leung-trained sprinter is in the right form to snare a tricky Sports Club Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup at Happy Valley tonight.
The five-year-old had well over a year off with a fractured pelvis and has had occasional soundness issues since, but Shibala (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) has nevertheless put a reasonable record together, winning three of his 15 starts.
It is at Happy Valley where Shibala has shone, winning two from three and both of his starts over this trip of 1,200m.
At Sha Tin, his good natural speed takes him only so far before his stamina is tested, so the speed-based requirements of the Valley are more to his liking and the gelding comes in as a last-start Class Four winner at the course.
Rising to Class Three, Shibala doesn't get the full benefit of the drop in weight as he had a 10-pound claim last time, but he still carries only 115 pounds and has the tactical speed to cope with his barrier eight in the likely fast tempo.
The field features quite a few leaders and Lai may opt out of competing for the front but attempt to camp just behind the speed runners instead, before issuing his challenge from the 300m.
Many of the runners are in some sort of form without necessarily being impressive, which makes the race tougher. The Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained Sea The Pearls (Alvin Ng Ka-chun) maps to get a nice run behind the speed from his low draw and should be around the money after seconds to Master Rio and Kick Serve, albeit without excuses.
But punters might also consider improving four-year-old Imperial Rome (Weichong Marwing). On Sunday, after Liberator won the Champions & Chater Cup, David Ferraris expressed disappointment the trainer syndicates scheme had been abandoned and two of his other syndicate horses run with chances tonight - Tres Magnifique (race six) and Imperial Rome.