Wong's classy Noble looks a Champion prospect
One of the brighter prospects in Alex Wong Yu-On's yard is Noble Champion and the New Zealand-bred galloper looks a top chance to land his third successive victory in the Ewo Challenge Trophy at Sha Tin this afternoon. This son of Royal Ascot Cork and Orrey Stakes (Gr 3) winner College Chapel looks good value after being penalised just eight points for his latest victory on January 10, when he scored very softly over 1,400 metres. Douglas Whyte rode a supremely confident race as Noble Champion kicked clear to win by two lengths.
That was his first run in three months and considering his work has picked up a notch since, he looks well placed to win again. Having drawn gate 11, he will need a tactically astute ride from the champion jockey but there is a touch of class about Noble Champion which should nullify the extra ground he may cover.
One of the main threats is the Caspar Fownes-trained Bold Winner, who quickly notched his first local victory on that memorable day in January when the rookie trainer led in five winners.
Bold Winner, an import from West Australia, clocked a smart time that day (1:22.4) on his first attempt over 1,400 metres. He ran very well in defeat when fourth to Sirocco over the Happy Valley mile at the end of January and looks promising.
Fortune Smiles will have his share of admirers in the market but the drop back in trip is not ideal. The key reason for that could be that John Size wishes to elevate his rating for Derby eligibility and while there is little doubt he would ideally prefer another route, this may be the best available option.
However, Fortune Smiles is clearly on the upgrade, having won his last two starts at Happy Valley in early January, though those wins came over a mile and 1,800 metres respectively. He is in cracking form and the course-and-distance winner must be given strong claims once again.
Topweight Sparkling Star went within a whisker of his first local win when third to Entertaining over the Sha Tin mile on January 18. He has been holding his form and looks a good chance.
David Hayes' yard is starting to hit form and last-start winner Wyndam Easy must be respected following a sound performance when leading from barrier to post over the course and distance last month. This is a stronger contest, but he will prove hard to catch in front if not pressured.
Wyndam Easy was well rated in front by in-form Gerald Mosse, who appears to have opted to ride Ambitious Tycoon this time.
There were positive signs for Ambitious Tycoon last start when fifth to Perfect Partner over the course and distance. The slight concern is that he has failed to hit the frame from seven attempts over the trip and, from the outside gate, he will need luck in running.
Lucky Stallion finished fourth to Perfect Partner, and has generally been holding his form well in recent weeks. However, he strikes similar opposition and appeals more as a place chance at best. Much the same applies to Royal Army, a three-time winner over the course and distance. The faster the pace, the better his chances and he should be powering home at the finish.
Kingfield, Delightful Win and African Forest have had only a handful of starts between them and it is fair to say none has been particularly impressive. Kingfield finished eighth to Bold Winner on debut and although he will be considerably fitter for that outing, he's hard to recommend at this stage.
Delightful Win has not competed since finishing eighth to The Achiever on Boxing Day - an effort which was fair at best. The following morning, Jockey Club veterinarians noted he was 'moving stiffly with generalised muscle soreness', so there were excuses.
African Forest has shown little potential on either start, and at this stage can be ruled out. The seven furlongs would appear to be on the sharp side for Super Blitz and Keen Marshal, who both have winning form over further.
The former has a number of gear changes for the first time but his recent form is far from decent and he may need further relief in the handicap. Tony Millard-trained Keen Marshal is a progressive galloper who has not run since International day when he finished a disappointing 11th. This run will serve as a fitness enhancer and he will be open to improvement.
New Planet finished second last to Successful Spirit after a year's break. This outing should bring him along further but at this stage he can be ignored.
Sean Woods has an excellent chance to land the fifth event with First Among Equals who attempts to win his third race from four starts. The progressive galloper raced greenly on his first attempt around a bend on New Year's Day and will be all the better for that experience.