In-form Circuit Kingdom has feature in his grasp
Ivan Allan is back in form following a mid-season lull and the former champion trainer is expected to take home the silverware from Happy Valley this evening with Circuit Kingdom in the P&O Challenge Cup. This son of multiple New Zealand Group One winner O'Reilly has won two of his last three starts, which included a dogged victory over the Sha Tin mile on February 15.
The progressive galloper tackles the Valley mile for the first time but has performed well on two previous runs around the tight course over the minimum trip, which is far too short for his liking.
Anton Marcus would appear to have sided with Master Gigolo this time but followers of Circuit Kingdom have lost nothing with the booking of Felix Coetzee, who won aboard him on November 30.
In a wide-open event, Peter Ho Leung and Douglas Whyte team up with Mastery, who has been in cracking form recently. This fellow is a multiple winner over the Valley mile and ran well in defeat on February 11 over 2,200 metres when second to Magic Hands in record time.
The slight concern is that he leaves the impression he is looking for that sort of journey now but, given his overall record around Happy Valley, he must be given plenty of respect. Whyte would appear to have chosen Mastery ahead of Winning Sunshine, who is yet to miss the frame over the 1,650 metres circuit at the city venue.
Eddie Lai takes over this evening and with a light weight (113 pounds) and favourable draw (gate six) he does look a major chance to keep his excellent Happy Valley record intact.
Danriva narrowly defeated Winning Sunshine on March 10 over the course and distance, before finishing a creditable third behind Cosmo Success last week in the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union Cup over the Valley mile.
Shane Dye will need to produce some brilliant navigating to offset the big disadvantage of the outside alley but the reality is that his options are limited and he is expected to settle near the rear of the field in what should be a steadily run race.
Rookie trainer Caspar Fownes has Konrad The Great holding his form exceptionally well but the gelding remains winless this season despite having been thereabouts on almost every start.
Ultimately, Konrad The Great needs a strong pace to allow him to reel in the leaders and produce his trademark final dash. It does not look like he will get the opportunity in this event and he appeals only as a minor place chance.
Asali finished fifth in the race won by Danriva this month and gets his chance to turn the tables on that form. He is competitively weighted, well drawn and should settle in a prominent position, suggesting he should have every chance.
Happy Valley Million Challenge winner Dashing Champion will relish the step back to the extended Valley mile following a fair effort on March 3 when seventh to Surveyor over 1,800 metres. The fast early sectionals did not help his cause and it was a better effort than it may appear on paper.
New rider Wendyll Woods should have little trouble in obtaining the lead from gate one and the chances of his being pressured in the lead are minimal. Consequently, he must be kept safe.
David Hayes has his yard firing on all cylinders and Good Trio is yet another with each-way claims. He ran well in defeat on the all-weather when second to Joyful Spirit earlier this month and finished a game third to Fighting Mascot over this course and distance back in December. His form has been solid and he is hard to leave out of calculations this evening.
David Ferraris has conjured three wins this season out of Fighting Mascot, who clearly had excuses on February 4 when not suited by the yielding conditions. He can be expected to improve on a firmer track tonight but he has risen 18 points in the ratings for all his successes this season and may have reached his limit for the time being.
Bobo Duck is another multiple winner over the course and distance but he has been out of form all season, having failed to hit the frame in five starts.
He strikes similar opposition here and even though he should land in a favourable settling position, that has often been the case this term with little reward. He needs further relief in the handicap.
John Moore-trained Master Gigolo has shown limited potential in two local starts over 1,400 metres at Sha Tin, with his most recent run coming earlier this month following a five-month break from racing. He should be fitter now but is difficult to recommend on his first visit to the city track, especially from gate 11.