Weight and tempo to favour Viva Fighter
Caspar Fownes is back to his favourite stamping ground at Happy Valley tonight and he can make it back-to-back victories with a reformed Viva Fighter in the featured St Andrew's Challenge Quaich (1,650m).
Fownes rarely misses out on a win at the Valley and has another strong team engaged, including Viva Fighter (Jacky Tong Chi-kit), who has thrown off his tag as a difficult horse on turns.
In his early starts, Viva Fighter hung badly when faced with a turn and Fownes was forced to race the four-year-old up the straight at Sha Tin.
Although, Viva Fighter did win one there, both his breeding and the manner of his racing performances screamed out that he would be needing further than 1,000m if he was to show the best he had.
But the change seems to have happened naturally with his maturity and he put the writing on the wall with a big fourth to Super Charge over the Valley 1,200m two starts back.
Dropped in towards the rear by Tong, the O'Reilly gelding found the line stoutly and while he still showed a tendency to lay out over the final stages, he did get around the bends well enough.
But even better things were in store last time out when Fownes switched Viva Fighter up to the Valley mile and he charged home from back in the field to win impressively and with little sign of his previous vices. That shot Viva Fighter into Class Three for this event and with a sharp weight drop, a handy draw and the likelihood of a suitable pace, he can improve that formline he now has of eight starts for two wins.
That's a prospect the connections of Le Rossignol (Felix Coetzee) will be hoping for too, as the five-year-old has yet to salute the judge in 18 starts but he has been ultra-consistent in registering six minor placings.
Coetzee takes over from apprentice Paul Lo Pak-hin and, while Lo made no errors on the gelding when second to Quest For Love last time, Coetzee's experience and strength are bound to make a difference.
With The Witch's Broom, Le Rossignol, Fat Dragon, Well Noted and Fly Me To The Moon all rolling forward early, this should be run at a good clip, which might negate the disadvantage of wider gates for horses like Chater Silk (Douglas Whyte) and Mellifluous (Brett Prebble).
Both are coming off worthwhile efforts in slowly run races that didn't allow them to do themselves justice but a more generous tempo could see them to advantage tonight.