Purse punters have one big reason to be Cheerful
Andy Leung's classy sprinter looks to have the edge on Grand Delight
Exciting sprint find Cheerful Fortune, unbeaten over the Sha Tin 1,200 metres circuit, is poised to inflict a first-up defeat on reigning Horse of the Year Grand Delight when that gelding returns to racing for the season in tomorrow's $2 million Ladies' Purse.
This Premier-class race is always one of the highlights of the early season and this year's edition, despite the absence of Electronic Unicorn, should help further clarify the state of the local speed talent who are being aimed toward the Hong Kong Sprint (1,000 metres) on December 14.
The swing in the weights is expected to be a critical factor for Cheerful Fortune this afternoon as the Kashani son is to receive a whopping 20 pounds from the multiple Group One winning sprinter Grand Delight.
Andy Leung Ting-wah's entry has the advantage of having had one run this term, along with a solid preparation that's included two barrier trials in which he has been extremely impressive. The slight query is that he is racing five points out of the handicap, but he has left the impression he is good enough to compete in the Premier grade and this event is the perfect stepping stone on the way to the set-weight races later on.
For many of the same reasons, Planet Ruler will have a large number of admirers today. He lost absolutely nothing in defeat at the hands of superstar Silent Witness in the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy on October 11, when he looked to have the race won before Silent Witness clawed his way back for an admirable victory.
Planet Ruler should have won prior to that when finishing second to Anabatik over the straight 1,000 metres course and it's apparent he has come back this season a much better horse.
The only slight negative is that both of those improved performances have come down the straight course, with his record over the 1,200 metres circuit not reading as well.
He has only hit the frame once from three attempts at today's journey, although all three of those came in the earliest stages of his career and therefore the reliability of the statistic is questionable. Planet Ruler looks well treated, having received the mandatory five points in the ratings for his second placing last time when out of the handicap, and should be right in the finish.
Trainer David Hayes also has Prime Witness taking part and the front-running grey is in cracking form, as shown by his victory in the National Day Cup.
However, he will not enjoy the soft lead this time round as he did at 1,400 metres last time and should be found out against this opposition.
Hayes' third entry is Charming City, who looks the most unlikely of the three to figure in the finish. Age has caught up with the son of Chief's Crown and he may need further relief in the ratings before being followed.
Grand Delight has had two trials leading up to his seasonal reappearance, but considering his main target will be the Hong Kong Sprint in December he should be a fair way from his peak at this stage. On sheer quality there is no doubt he can win, but as was the case in the Sha Tin Vase last season he will find it tough to concede so much weight to gifted opposition and prove as effective as he has been at set weights. There is a case to be made for Cape Of Good Hope, who went within a short head of beating Grand Delight in the Chairman's Sprint Prize over the course and distance last year.
He caught the eye when flashing home to finish fifth behind Silent Witness last time, and with South African ace Douglas Whyte on board should be kept safe.
Whyte would appear to have chosen him ahead of Dashing Winner, who won a trial in solid fashion recently. In any case, this is Dashing Winner's first run this season and he should be outclassed.
Anabatik has a gear change applied following an out-of-character performance last time when finishing second to last behind Silent Witness.
On form prior to that outing, he would certainly rate a chance of hitting the frame, but caution is advised at this stage until he shows some positive signs.
Smart Winner has been holding his form well this season, without ever looming as a real threat. He does meet Cheerful Fortune much better in the weights (20 pounds) for 21/4-length defeat, and looks competitively weighted over a course and distance where he has a solid record.
Both Our Class and Victory Warrior could join Prime Witness in front, but lack the class of this field and would do well to pick up any prize money.
Ho Choi finished 12th behind Prime Witness over 1,400 metres and, considering he will not be suited with a drop back to 1,200 metres, this run should serve as a further fitness enhancer.